Beware: Criminals May Use Voice Cloning to Swindle You

June 7, 2022

It’s a call no one wants to get. A grandfather in Virginia received a sobbing frantic voicemail he thought was from his granddaughter. The voicemail said she was in jail and desperately needed bail money. The grandfather forked over the dough. But the money went to a scam artist who had faked the granddaughter’s voice. Unfortunately, con jobs like this are committed countless times every day all over the country.

Swindlers use voice cloning technology to defraud well-meaning individuals, and the FBI is seeing an alarming increase in this scam.

This is how it works: Somebody gets a little snippet of your voice (typically from a social media post). They process that clip with a sophisticated software program that allows them to re-create your voice saying anything they want.

The software was originally made for medical uses, such as for people who lost their voices to throat cancer, or for Hollywood movie studios to change the voices of actors. Sadly, criminals found a way to use the technology for harm.

Once they have a computerized version of your voice, they fake a call to a loved one pretending you have been kidnapped or are in legal trouble and need money, and it sounds just like you are making the call.

Voice cloning programs are very expensive, but the FBI says nefarious groups like drug cartels have the money and unfortunately, it is a profitable scam.

If you get a call from a family member in danger, the FBI says you should first try separately contacting the person who is supposedly placing the call. Use another phone and if that person answers, and they’re OK, then you know it’s a scam.

If you can’t reach them and do believe your loved one is in danger, then call 911.

It’s also clear that we all should be more cautious about what we post on social media. While social media can be a place to share our personal lives, scammers may use that information against us and people we care about.