The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning that scammers are now using AI technology to clone people’s voices in order to make phone scams sound more convincing. The scams target victims who often give up money, believing the scammer is someone else, often a family member who needs urgent help.
Family Emergency Scams
In “family emergency scams,” a victim gets a call from someone who claims the victim’s loved one is in trouble (in jail or in another country without a passport) and needs money. Senior citizens are often targets of these scams.
AI Technology and Voice Clones
AI technology makes it very easy for fraudsters to clone a person’s voice and use it during a scam phone call. “You no longer need a computer science degree to create these voice clones. You need $5 and basic computer know-how,” said Brandon Amacher, an adjust professor at UVU Center for National Security Studies and director of Emerging Tech Policy Lab.
Scammers can find samples of people’s voices all over the internet on social media. They can use those samples to create a clone that says whatever they want. With AI technology advancing very quickly, it takes just a small sample of someone’s voice to create a voice clone.
Protecting Yourself from AI Scams
Katie Hart, Director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, said that currently, there are no local laws on the books to protect consumers who get ripped off during AI scams. For now, the best protection for consumers is to be aware of these scams and question any phone calls that sound suspicious.
If someone calls you urgently demanding you send them money, hang up, then call the person yourself using the number where you’d normally reach them. Even if the person on the phone sounds like someone you know, verify before giving them more information or money.
The Role of Lawmakers and Cybersecurity Commission
Utah lawmakers passed legislation in 2022 to form a cybersecurity commission to “gather information and share best practices on cybersecurity”. The recently-formed commission has not yet addressed AI and scams. Maggie Hutchens, a recent UVU graduate in UVU’s cybersecurity studies program, said laws have not caught up with AI scammers.
She said it’s urgent for lawmakers to address this issue before more people are hurt. She said just like scammers use data to victimize people, lawmakers can use data to create policies to protect people. “I don’t think we need to wait for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be taken from people before we address the issue,” she said.
AI Technology Becomes more Challenging
AI technology has made life easier in many ways, doing jobs or tasks that humans would normally do. However, it has also made it easier for scammers to clone people’s voices and use them during phone scams. As AI technology advances, it will become more challenging to distinguish between fake and real information. To protect ourselves, we need to be more careful about what information we give away and what we post on social media. Lawmakers and cybersecurity commissions must act quickly to address the issue before more people fall victim to AI scams.