Don’t be a Victim of Cybercriminals: How to Avoid Being Scammed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Voice Spoofing Calls

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From the office of District Attorney Summer Stephan: Artificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword everyone is talking about. From whether you should invest in AI companies, to the fear that it will take your job or the philosophical question about how to control the technology.

As you’ve heard me say before, behind every new trend are bad actors waiting to exploit it and in the case of AI, it’s through voice spoofing.

Cybercriminals only need a few seconds of voice audio to be able to clone it using artificial intelligence, also known as voice spoofing. Armed with a clone of your voice, scammers call your relatives claiming to be you or a loved one in need of financial help. Already this scam is being reported to law enforcement around the county, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes more prevalent.

The fraudulent calls are similar to previous iterations of the grandparent scam or a government agency or utility company calling to say you owe money or will be arrested. The difference is the person calling for help sounds identical to your loved one.

Imagine receiving a call and the voice on the other end sounds exactly like your child or grandson saying they are in trouble. They get cut off, then someone pretending to be a lawyer representing your loved one gets on the line explaining that if your grandson doesn’t pay a certain amount, things will get much worse for him. This scenario could propel anyone to hand over money.

The most common scam calls include:

  • Your grandchild was arrested and needs to be bailed out of jail
  • Your child was in car accident and needs money for a tow truck or transportation
  • A law enforcement agency calling to say there is a warrant for your arrest

The call can appear to be coming from the phone number of your loved one because scammers can inexpensively spoof any phone number. When the number is unknown, the caller has a story about why they are calling from a different phone number.

Anyone can be susceptible to this scam because artificial intelligence is so advanced. Here are some tips to help you avoid falling prey to a voice spoofing scam.

  • Create a code word with your loved one.
  • If you get a call from a purported loved one asking for emergency financial help, ask them to say the code word. If they don’t say it, you know it’s a fake call.
  • If you don’t have a code word, ask questions or bring up topics only your loved one would know about.
  • Call the loved one directly to confirm their safety.
  • Do not cave to pressure to act quickly, which is a hallmark method scammers use to pressure you into giving money.
  • Limit what you post on social media. Bad actors draw from what you share online to be able to present information about the victims that only family or friends would know.
  • Check your social media privacy settings to be aware of how your information is being shared.
  • Perform periodic Google searches of yourself so you can see what is online about you to determine whether you need to have anything removed.

If you become a victim of voice spoofing, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center at: ic3.gov or to your local law enforcement agency so they can start an investigation.

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and the public in order to keep you safe. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.

For more information from the San Diego County District Attorney, visit: https://www.sdcda.org/

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