Grandmother Tricked Into Believing Her Grandchild is Jailed by Scammers Using Voice Cloning
by Jen Sako
AI is the next big thing and some very cool things using this new technology are coming out. But, of course, scammers wasted no time getting in on the game. This time, they are using AI to make it sound like you are talking to someone you know over the phone.
That’s what Ruth Card, a 73-year old grandma, thought when she heard the voice of her beloved grandson, Brandon, when she answered the phone. When he said he desperately needed bail money, she and her husband went straight to their bank.
Card told the Washington Post, “It was definitely this feeling of…fear. That we’ve got to help him right now.”
The couple quickly took out $3,000 CAD, the maximum amount allowed, from their account. Then, went through the process again for more money. Luckily, the bank manager was trained to see when customers were being scammed. He approached them and told them he had seen another customer who had received the same phone call that sounded like a family member. The voice, they found out, had been a fake.
Card said, “We were sucked in. We were convinced that we were talking to Brandon.”
Others fell for the scam hard. The Washington Post told the story of Benjamin Perkin, 39-years-old, whose parents lost thousands to an AI voice clone. Perkin’s folks thought they were talking to a lawyer on the phone who relayed their son was involved in a car crash that killed a US diplomat and needed money for legal fees. They were even convinced they were talking to their own son when the lawyer pretended to let them speak to Perkin. The voice sounded exactly like him.
When the lawyer called them back and asked for $21,000 CAD in Bitcoin, they didn’t hesitate to go to their bank and complete the transaction.
“The money’s gone. There’s no insurance. There’s no getting it back. It’s gone.”
The scam has been around for a few years. But with the rapid advancements and adoption of AI technology, the general law-abiding public will not often recognize when they are being fooled.
Professor of forensics at UC Berkeley, Hany Farid, told WaPo,
“Two years ago, even a year ago, you needed a lot of audio to clone a person’s voice.
Now if you have a Facebook page or if you’ve recorded a TikTok and your voice is in there for 30 seconds, people can clone your voice.”
Companies like ElevenLabs offer AI voice synthesis service that cost only $5 per month. Their results are so convincing, a journalist used it to break into his own bank account. Hopefully, we can also come up with the tools that can stop scammers from using it to steal money from innocent, and often elderly, victims.