“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

Scammers Can Clone Your Voice

Just imagine you are at home and the telephone rings…it’s your grandson calling, and he says he is in big trouble, and you need to send him money for lawyers and bail.  He is a good kid and has never been in trouble before.  

Picture of a mans arm with a handcuff on it holding the phone receiver in his hand.

The Newest Scam

The most recent scam is faking your grandson’s telephone number and voice

How do you know it’s your grandson on the phone? 

The voice sounds like your grandson and the telephone number is your grandson’s, but believe it or not, scammers can use artificial intelligence to fake your grandson’s voice and clone his number. 

The scammers are trying to rip you off for thousands of dollars, and the two ways you would usually figure out something is a fraud (caller I.D. and the voice on the other end of the line) are both faked.  You are about to be a victim.   

Picture of cell phone with an incoming call that reads SCAM

In March 2023, the Federal Trade Commission issued a “consumer alert,” warning consumers about how the latest generation of artificial intelligence programs can clone your grandchildren’s voices.  

And, while this sounds too crazy to be true, voice cloning programs start at only $99 per month, which puts them clearly in the reach of even the most amateurish scammers.  

If your kids or grandkids’ voices are on the internet (think TicTok, Facebook, or Snapchat), scammers can get ahold of those voice recordings, feed them into a cloning program and fake your loved one’s voice. 

They can call you and have an entire conversation pretending to be your loved one.  And, unless you are smart about it, you will never know.  

Worse, the programs are getting better, so deep fakes will soon be nearly impossible to detect.  

How To Protect Yourself

I want to be precise; watching T.V., notably Star Trek, usually wastes time. 

I wrote “usually” because every so often, Star Trek predicts real life and gives the answer to “how to detect a deep fake.” 

In a recent episode of Picard (Season 3, Episode 5), the storyline revolved around changelings, beings that can change their physical shape and voice to impersonate Star Fleet officers.  

Picture of star trek cast.

In the episode, the Captain of the U.S.S. Titan (Captain Liam Shaw) tells Commander Seven how to distinguish between real Star Fleet officers and deep fakes (like someone using a computer program to pretend they are your grandchild).  

Captain Shaw said that you must ask the imposter a question about something only you and the real person would know about to uncover an imposter.  The question(s) don’t have to be complicated.  Just one, two, or even three questions that an imposter wouldn’t know the answer to.  

If follow the Star Trek advice, you will quickly learn if your grandchild is really in trouble or if it is an imposter hoping to steal from you. 

So, even though Captain Shaw is a jerk on the show, there is a reason he is a Star Fleet Captain – he actually knows stuff and sometimes gives good orders.  

How Big Is This Problem? 

Big and growing bigger by the day.  

Computer programs that can fake voices and are available to the public are very new. 

Even so, fraud losses are already in the tens of millions of dollars and growing exponentially.  After all, if all it takes for a scammer located in a foreign country is $99 per month and a good internet connection to launch the scam, I think you can expect this deep fake fraud to quickly grow exponentially.     

If you want to see the F.T.C. releases on this threat, click here and here. A Washington Post report on this topic can be accessed here.  And a MoneyTalksNews article can be viewed here.  

So, “buckle up buttercup” we are in for a rough ride when we can’t tell if it is our grandkids calling or a deep fake. 

Mark Sunshine

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