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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , grandparent scam, , , ,   

    The FTC puts a bounty on AI voice cloning 

    The FTC puts a bounty on AI voice cloning

    By Greg Collier

    AI-generated voice cloning, or voice spoofing, scams have become such a nuisance, the federal government is turning to the people to help solve the problem. If you’re unfamiliar with AI-voice generation technology, there are apps and programs that can take a short sample of anyone’s voice and make that voice say whatever you want it to. The benefit of it is it can give people who lost their speaking ability a voice. However, every tool that’s made for the good of mankind can also be used to its detriment.

    Scammers use cloned voices in what are known as emergency scams. Emergency scams can be broken down into two categories, for the most part, the grandparent scam, and the virtual kidnapping scam. In both sets of scams, the scammers need to convince their victim one of the victim’s loved ones is in some sort of peril. In the case of the grandparent scam, the scammer will try to convince the victim their loved one is in jail and needs bail money. While in the virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers try to convince the victim their loved one has been kidnapped for ransom.

    Scammers will take a sample of someone’s voice, typically from a video that’s been posted to social media. Then, they’ll use the voice cloning technology to make it sound like that person is in a situation that requires the victim to send money.

    Voice cloning has become such a problem, the Federal Trade Commission has issued a challenge to anyone who thinks they can develop some kind of voice cloning detector. The top prize winner can receive $25,000, the runner-up can get $4000, while three honorable mentions can get $2000.

    In their own words, the FTC has issued this challenge to help push forward ideas to mitigate risks upstream—shielding consumers, creative professionals, and small businesses against the harms of voice cloning before the harm reaches a consumer.

    The online submission portal can be found at this link, and submissions will be accepted from January 2 to 12, 2024.

    Hopefully, someone can come up with the right idea to better help consumers from losing their money to these scammers.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 7, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , emergency scam, grandparent scam,   

    College parents targeted by this scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Parents of college students are being targeted in a new scam, but it’s actually an old scam with new targets. It’s more infamously known as the grandparent scam. As you may know, that scam targets the elderly, with scammers trying to convince their victims that one of their grandchildren is in trouble. Often the scammers will claim to be the grandchild. It’s all done to try to squeeze money out of the victims disguised as bail money or some other legal fee. Meanwhile, the grandchild is safe and unaware they’re being used in a scam.

    As you can surmise by the headline, some scammers have decided to target a new demographic, but it’s still the same old scam. Now referred to as the emergency scam, scammers are calling college parents and telling them their child has been arrested. The scammers then ask for bail money that needs to be paid through apps like Venmo or Zelle. With a student possibly being states away from their parents, this could put the parents into a panicked state where they’re not thinking clearly. This is what the scammers are hoping for, so parents don’t have time to logically think about the situation.

    So, how do scammers know which parents to target? Social media, of course. The scammers look for college students on social media, and from there it’s usually not hard to find the student’s parents.

    It also doesn’t help that scammers are now using AI-generated voice cloning technology to imitate the voices of students. If a student is active on social media and have posted videos of themselves, it’s not difficult for the scammers to get a sample of their voice to use in their schemes.

    However, if you’re aware of the scam, it’s easy to beat. Even if it sounds like your own child is telling you they’re in jail, be suspicious. Instead, attempt to contact them directly, either using another phone or text message. You can also call the police department where they’re supposedly being held. And keep in mind that bail is never paid through payment apps, gift cards, cryptocurrencies, or money transfers. Setting up a code word with your child that’s only to be used in the case of an emergency will also go a long way in protecting your family from this scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 29, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: grandparent scam,   

    Grandparent scammer gets victim to pay twice 

    Grandparent scammer gets victim to pay twice

    By Greg Collier

    One of the more cruel things about scams is that once a scammer finds a victim who gives them money, the scammers will try to get more money out of that victim. Take the puppy scam, for example. Once the victim pays for a puppy that doesn’t exist, the scammers will send the victim repeated requests for money under the guise of special travel crates, insurance, and emergency vet fees. Unfortunately, we’ve seen multiple victims of the puppy scam pay multiple payments to their scammers. While the puppy scam is the more common scam where multiple payments happen, it can occur in almost any scam. An elderly Florida woman sadly found that out the hard way when she fell victim to the grandparent scam.

    For those who may be unfamiliar, the grandparent scam is when scammers pose as one of the victim’s grandchildren. They’ll call the victim claiming to be in some kind of trouble and need money to bail them out.

    In this instance, the scammer called the Florida woman, claiming to be her grandson. He said he got into a car accident with a pregnant woman who lost her baby. This is a common claim used in grandparent scams, as it tries to make the phony charges seem serious while also trying to garner sympathy from the victim. Scammers are masters of emotional manipulation.

    The ‘grandchild’ then handed the call over to someone he said was his friend’s father, who just happened to be an attorney. In actuality, the attorney was the scammer’s partner, who put on a good enough show.

    The phony attorney told the woman her grandson needed $36,000 for bail. When the woman told the scammer she didn’t have that kind of money, the scammer settled for $18,000. After she withdrew that money from the bank, she was instructed a courier would come by her home and pick up the money.

    That’s not how bail works in the real world. Once bail is set, it typically stays at that amount. It can go up, but it seldomly goes down. Also, bail is never picked up by a courier. It’s typically paid at the courthouse or through a bail bondsman.

    You would think that $18,000 would be enough for this scammer, but they kept making more ridiculous claims in order to get more money. The fake attorney told the woman that her grandson was caught taking selfies in the courtroom, which incurred an increase in bail of $16,000. This time, the woman was told to send cash through FedEx to another state, and that the judge placed a gag order on the case, meaning she couldn’t talk to anyone about the matter, including family.

    If someone were to be arrested, they would not be allowed to have their phone on them in the courtroom, so courtroom selfies are highly unlikely. Scammers will also use the gag order card to prevent victims from talking to other family members. That’s not how a gag order works, however. Gag orders are typically only issued to participants of a trial. If someone tries to tell you over the phone, there’s a gag order in place, they’re more than likely trying to scam you. No one can stop you from talking to your family.

    Then the scammer tried to get a third payment from the grandmother, The scammer claimed that the grandson violated the gag order and the bail had been raised another $12,000. When the woman tried to get the $12,000 from her bank, she was told by a bank employee, she was told she was being scammed.

    To avoid falling victim to the grandparent scam, it’s important to be skeptical of unexpected phone calls or emails from people claiming to be a grandchild in distress. Don’t give out personal information or money without verifying the identity of the caller. If you are unsure if the person is truly a grandchild, ask them questions that only your real grandchild would know the answer to. Additionally, consider setting up a code word with your grandchildren to confirm their identity before providing any information or assistance. Lastly, if you do receive a suspicious call or email, please report it to the appropriate authorities.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 26, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: grandparent scam, ,   

    New version of grandparent scam changes the target 

    New version of grandparent scam changes the target

    By Greg Collier

    If you haven’t heard of the grandparent scam, it’s called that because it mostly targets the elderly. The way it works is, scammers will call their elderly target and pose as one of the target’s grandchildren. The call usually starts with the scammer saying something like “Grampa?”. They’re hoping the target will respond with a grandchild’s name by replying with something along the lines of, “Is this Brandon?”. The scammer will reply with yes to no matter what name they’re supplied with. Then the real grift begins.

    While posing as the grandchild, the scammer will tell their target they’ve gotten into legal trouble and need money to fix the situation. Typically, the phony grandchild will claim they’ve been in a car accident that was their fault and need money for bail or some other legal fee. Sometimes, the call is passed off to the scammer’s partner, who will pose as the police, a bail bondsman, or attorney to add an element of urgency to the target.

    Payment is usually asked for through means that are hard to recover, such as cryptocurrency, gift cards, or through payment apps like Zelle, Cash App and Venmo. The target is also instructed not to tell anyone else in the family, sometimes under the threat of a gag order.

    That’s how the grandparent scam traditionally worked until the development of AI voice-spoofing technology. Now, the grandparent scam has become more focused, with scammers targeting specific victims instead of random elderly people.

    With that development, the Better Business Bureau has issued a warning that scammers have also flipped the script on the grandparent scam. According to the BBB, scammers are now posing as grandparents in distress on these scam phone calls. Thanks to AI voice-spoofing, scammers are now targeting children and grandchildren instead of just the elderly with this scam. You can imagine how panicked this would make the victim of this new version of the scam.

    However, the ways to protect yourself remain the same. Educating your family about the scam is the best defense. Your family should also set up a code word you can use to verify the identity of the person who is calling. Or, you could ask the caller a question only they would know the answer to. Lastly, don’t believe your ears when you get a call like this, it may sound like your loved one, but now, scammers can mimic any voice down to a T.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , grandparent scam, , ,   

    Grandmother scammed for weeks in AI voice-spoofing scam 

    By Greg Collier

    It’s been a short while since we last discussed the AI voice-spoofing scam. For new readers, this is when scammers obtain a sample of someone’s voice from online, and run it through an AI program, which allows the scammers to make the voice say whatever they want. The scammers then use the person’s voice to convince that person’s loved one to send the scammers money.

    Voice-spoofing is typically used in one of two consumer-level scams. The first one is the virtual kidnapping scam, which is exactly what it sounds like. Scammers will use the spoofed voice to make it sound like somebody’s loved one has been kidnapped, and the scammers will demand a ransom.

    The second scam is the one we’ll be discussing today, which is the grandparent scam. In this scam, the scammers pose as an elderly victim’s grandchild who’s in some kind of legal trouble. The scammers will often ask for bail money or legal fees.

    An elderly woman from Utah recently fell victim to the grandparent scam. Scammers called her on the phone using the cloned voice of one of her granddaughters. The ‘granddaughter’ said she had been arrested after riding in a car with someone who had drugs and needed bail money. A scammer then got on the call and pretended to be the granddaughter’s attorney and instructed the woman on how she could send payment. The woman was also instructed not to tell anyone else in the family, as it could jeopardize the granddaughter’s court case.

    One of the many problems with scammers is if you pay them once, chances are they’ll come back for more money, which is what happened here. For weeks, the phony granddaughter kept calling back needing more money each time for various legal proceedings. Keep in mind that with each conversation, the grandmother is not actually talking to anybody but a computer-generated voice, which sounds exactly like her granddaughter.

    Eventually, the grandmother did grow suspicious and told her son, who informed her she was being scammed.

    Don’t trust your ears when it comes to phone scams. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a relative or loved one in need of money, it’s important to follow the same precautions, even if the voice sounds exactly like them. Hang up on the call and contact the person who’s supposedly in trouble. If you can’t reach them, ask other family members who might know where they are. Be sure to tell them about the situation you encountered, and never keep it a secret. Lastly, never send money under any circumstances.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: grandparent scam, , , ,   

    County official targeted in AI scam 

    By Greg Collier

    We’ve come across yet another story where an AI-generated voice has been used in a scam. This time it took place in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. There, a county official received a phone call she thought was coming from her daughter. The voice on the other end sounded exactly like her daughter, and was sobbing and crying. Then a man got on the call and claimed to be a police officer. That man said that the daughter caused a car accident after looking at her phone while driving. It wasn’t long before the man asked for $15,000 bail. Thankfully, while this was going on, the woman got a text message from her actual daughter, which spoiled the scam.

    Regular readers will recognize this as the grandparent scam. It was initially called that because scammers would target the elderly and pose as one of the victim’s grandchildren. Now, ‘grandparent scam’ is a misnomer because more recently, scammers have been targeting parents as well. This is thanks to the advancement of AI technology lately. Scammers now have the capability of spoofing the voice of just about anyone they want and making it say whatever they want. This makes a scam that was concerning at first, absolutely terrifying now. Before voice-spoofing, a scammer would have to try to imitate a loved one while claiming they had some kind of injury which made their voice sound different, such as a broken nose. Now, scammers don’t even have to bother. All they need now is a few seconds of someone’s voice they can take from a video on social media.

    But as always, If you receive a distressing call from a supposed loved one who claims they’re in some kind of trouble, it is critical to verify their situation by contacting them directly. Scammers will try to keep you on the phone by threatening arrest if you hang up or claiming there is some kind of gag order. Nothing is keeping you from hanging up on the phone call to verify the story with your family or friends. Even if you’re convinced you’re hearing your loved one’s voice, always verify the story before making any kind of payment is even considered.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , grandparent scam, , ,   

    AI voice-spoofing scam started earlier than we thought 

    By Greg Collier

    One of the many problems with scams is, by the time the public hears about them, they’re already in full swing and have claimed numerous victims. For example, we’ve only been discussing the AI voice-spoofing scam for roughly two months. While we assumed the scam had been going on longer than that, we were unaware of just how far back it started. According to one recent report, at least one scam ring has been implementing the voice-spoofing scam since October of last year. The reason we know the scam is at least that old is because a suspect has been arrested for such a scam.

    In a voice-spoofing scam, scammers extract someone’s voice sample from online sources and manipulate it using AI technology to make it utter desired phrases. This deceptive practice is commonly observed in phone scams, particularly those aimed at convincing victims that they are communicating with a trusted family member or loved one. The voice-spoofing seems to be only used in grandparent scams and virtual kidnapping scams, so far. It’s only a matter of time before scammers come up with new ways of using voice-spoofing to scam victims.

    Also, when we discuss voice-spoofing scams here in 2023, we’re referring to the new wave of voice-spoofing scams. In previous years, there have been voice-spoofing scams, however, they were almost primitive compared to today’s technology. Those older scams also needed several minutes of someone’s recorded voice before they could make a viable speech model. Today, scammers only need a few seconds of speech.

    Getting back to the matter at hand, a New Jersey man was recently arrested for allegedly scamming a Houston, Texas, woman out of $40,000. She thought the voice she was talking to was her son, who claimed to have been arrested. Then the alleged scammer would get on the phone posing as a public defender while asking the woman for bail money. The man was caught after investigators followed the money trail, since one of the payments was sent through money transfer. However, the victim in this case was scammed in October 2022.

    Since scammers hardly ever work alone, more arrests may be following, and you can almost bet there are more victims out there.

    If you receive a distressing call from a supposed loved one requesting urgent financial assistance, it is crucial to verify their situation by promptly contacting them through alternative means. Do not entertain any assertions that prevent you from ending the call or consulting other family members. Stay vigilant and prioritize verifying the authenticity of such requests.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 20, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , grandparent scam, , , ,   

    Mother convinced daughter arrested in AI scam 

    Mother convinced daughter arrested in AI scam

    By Greg Collier

    If anyone could recognize their daughter’s voice with just a few short words, it would be their mother. At least, that’s what scammers are hoping as AI-generated voice spoofing scams continue to plague families.

    Within the past few months, we have seen an increased uptick of phone scams that use AI-generated voices. As we’ve previously discussed, there are two scams where an AI-generated voice of the victim’s loved one makes the scams seem more believable.

    One of those scams is the virtual kidnapping scam. That’s when scammers will call their victim to tell them that they’ve kidnapped one of the victim’s loved ones, while demanding a ransom. In actuality, the supposed kidnap victim is unaware they’re being used in a scam.

    The other scam is the grandparent scam. It’s called the grandparent scam because in it, the majority of scammers target elderly victims and claim to be one of their grandchildren. Calling it the grandparent scam can be a misnomer, as scammers will also target parents and spouses.

    One mother from Upstate New York was shopping for her daughter’s wedding when she received a call from scammers. She immediately heard her daughter’s voice saying she got into a car accident. But it wasn’t her daughter’s voice. Scammers had spoofed it using AI.

    Scammers only need a few seconds of someone’s voice before they can make an authentic sounding AI model, along with the speaker’s cadence. They get their voice samples either from someone’s social media or making phone calls to their target. Since the daughter was preparing for her wedding, there may have been a wide variety of voice samples to choose from.

    But getting back to the scam, after the mother heard her daughter’s voice, a scammer got on the line posing as local police. They said the daughter caused a wreck while texting and driving, and needed $15,000 for bail.

    Thankfully, even though the woman was convinced that was her daughter’s voice, she did not fall victim to the scam. Instead, she called her daughter, who was in no danger at all.

    If you receive a phone call like this, try to contact the person who was supposedly arrested. Even if you held a conversation on that call and the person sounded exactly like your loved one. Scammers will try to keep you on the phone, but no one ever had their bail raised while someone verified their story.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 16, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: grandparent scam, , , , , , ,   

    Scam Round Up: A new stolen car scam and more 

    Scam Round Up: A new stolen car scam and more

    By Greg Collier

    This week, in the Round Up, we’ll be reviewing two scams we’ve discussed before and a new one that took even us by surprise.

    Today’s first scam is one that we thought we’d see more of, but that could just mean that victims aren’t coming forward. Anyway, the voice spoofing scam has found its way to another family, this time in Tacoma, Washington. The scammers spoofed the voice of the family’s 16-year-old daughter and said that she had been in a car wreck and needed $10,000. Scammers only need a few seconds of someone’s voice to be able to generate that person’s voice using AI technology.

    This voice spoofing technology has been used in the grandparent scam, as shown above, and the virtual kidnapping scam. Even if your ears are trying to convince you that you’re talking to a loved one, always verify their story. Try to use another device to contact that person. Or have a code phrase set up beforehand with your family in case of an actual emergency.

    The second scam for today seems like it’s popping up more often lately, if the news is any indication. More homeowners have been receiving concerning letters in the mail that many think are coming from their mortgage company. In reality, the letters are from someone trying to sell a home warranty policy. However, the Better Business Bureau notes that the fine print should tell you all you need to know about the letter. In some instances, the letter says something similar to, “Not all consumers have previous coverage. We are not affiliated with your current mortgage.”

    If you have any questions or concerns about your mortgage or current home warranty, call those companies directly. Do not use any contact information contained in the letter.

    Lastly, it seems we’ve seen a number of car scams emerge, and this may be one of the most heinous. Selling a stolen car online is nothing new. It’s the buyers who pay the price once they find out that the car is stolen when they’re notified by either the DMV or the police. More recently, car scammers are taking the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a car of a similar make and model, and using it on the stolen car.

    This way, when a buyer may run a vehicle history report, it will come back with the history of a car that hasn’t been stolen.

    However, this isn’t a perfect scam for the scammers. A buyer would need to look out for any discrepancies between the vehicle history and what the seller is telling you. If there are any discrepancies, or there’s an issue with any paperwork, the buyer should walk away.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 3, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , grandparent scam, , , , , ,   

    Scam Round Up: AI voice scam finds another victim and more 

    By Greg Collier

    This week in the round-up, we’ll be discussing three scams we’ve discussed before, but have popped up again recently.

    Our first scam is the Medicare card scam. Medicare issued new cards back in 2018 which started using an ID# rather than the recipient’s Social Security number. This was done to help prevent Medicare fraud and ensure patient privacy. Ever since then, scammers have been trying to fool Medicare recipients into believing another new card was being issued. Scammers typically do this to try to steal their victim’s Medicare information.

    The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office has issued a warning which says scammers are calling residents posing as Medicare, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Insurance. The scammers are telling residents they need to turn in their paper Medicare cards for new plastic ones. This is not true. If Medicare were to issue new cards, they would announce it through the mail and not by calling Medicare recipients.

    The next scam pertains to families who have a loved one who is currently incarcerated. The Georgia Parole Board has issued their own warning to the families of the incarnated. They’ve reported scammers are calling the families and asking for money for the release of their family member. The scammers claim the money is needed for an ankle monitor before the inmate could be released.

    According to the parole board, they will never call anyone’s family asking for money. Georgia residents are advised to check with the parole board’s website before to determine the current parole status of their family member.

    Our final scam is one that’s not that old and has been in the news a lot lately, the voice spoofing scam. Scammers are taking voice recordings from social media or spam phone calls and feeding it to an AI program that can replicate that person’s voice. So far, it’s mostly been used in the grandparent scam, and the virtual kidnapping scam.

    An elderly coupe from Texas fell victim to the grandparent scam when they heard the voice of their grandson asking for help. The AI-generated voice said they were in an accident in Mexico and needed $1000. Believing he was talking to his actual grandson, the grandfather sent the money.

    If you receive a call like this, don’t believe your ears, as they can be deceived. Instead, try to contact the person who is supposedly in danger before sending any money.

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