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Officials warn Artificial Intelligence can mimic voices to make spam calls

Better Business Bureau

Across the nation, people are reporting a new kind of spam call. Scammers are using artificial intelligence technology to mimic voices of loved ones to get personal information and money from victims.

According to the Better Business Bureau, scam artists only need three seconds of a person’s voice to make a semi-realistic replication and send calls or voice messages, usually to solicit money or personal information. The familiar voice makes the call more convincing for unaware recipients.

Heather Clary, Director of Community and Media Relations Coordinator for BBB, said the scams are now more realistic because of the ability to reproduce a real person’s voice through AI.

“Using real voices- although they were altered in some way, and the con artist would think of a way to explain that. Like, especially with urgent matter scams and emergency scams- ‘I’ve been in an accident; I broke my nose; I’m crying because I’m upset,’ to explain why they don’t sound like your loved one. All that’s out the door with this AI going on,” said Clary.

Clary said people should set their social media to private so scammers can’t access audio of their voice, and another way to protect families from these scam calls is by establishing a ‘safe word’.

“If someone calls you claiming to be in an emergency situation and they need help, and you just aren’t sure that it’s really them, ask them for the safe word or the safe phrase that’s been established in the family previously and kept secret. If the person on the other end doesn’t know it, even if they sound like that person using AI, chances are it’s a big scam and you’ll want to hang up and check further,” said Clary.

Clary recommended anyone receiving an emotional or urgent call should trust their instincts if the situation feels suspicious. In statistics by the BBB’s 2022 Scamtracker Risk Report, nearly 75% of people who avoided scams said they had a ‘gut feeling’ that the call was fraudulent.

The Federal Trade Commission also hosts a Do Not Call registry. Anyone can report spam callers and register a mobile or home phone to prevent receiving telemarketer calls at donotcall.gov.