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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    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 8:00 am on September 26, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    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 19, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    The sheer terror of the kidnapping scam 

    The sheer terror of the kidnapping scam

    By Greg Collier

    Even if someone has complete knowledge of how a certain scam works, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t fall victim to it, due to how some scams are completely menacing. Take, for example, the virtual kidnapping scam. This is when a scammer calls someone and claims to have kidnapped their loved one before making a ransom demand. Meanwhile, the supposed kidnap victim is unharmed and has no idea they’re being used in a scam. With the advancement of AI voice-spoofing technology, scammers can easily mimic the voice of the victim’s loved one to make the scam seem even more threatening.

    With that knowledge in mind, we may think we wouldn’t fall for such a scam as we sit at our keyboards and screens. But can you say that with 100% confidence? Before you answer, you should know the story of an Atlanta father who fell victim to the scam.

    He received a call from someone who claimed they kidnapped his adult daughter. At the time of the call, the man’s daughter was traveling. This could be why the man was targeted, as scammers often take information they find on social media and use it to their advantage. The caller claimed he got into a car accident with the man’s daughter and that they were carrying a substantial amount of cocaine at the time.

    The caller threatened the life of the man’s daughter, saying that they couldn’t have anyone recognize them. This was accompanied by screams and cries in the background that replicated his daughter’s voice. This was followed up with threats of torture and other bodily harm to the daughter if the man didn’t comply. For the sake of decorum, we won’t reprint specifically what the threats entailed, but imagine the worst thing that could happen to a loved one of your own, and then you have an idea of the terror that was unfolding.

    The father complied with the scammer’s request and sent them $2500 to the scammer’s bank account, probably through an app like Zelle.

    Even if armed with the knowledge of how the virtual kidnapping scam works, in the heat of the moment, no one could be blamed for falling victim to the scam. However, there are still ways to try to protect yourself from the scam. The best way is to set up a code word between you and your loved ones. This way, in cases of calls like this, you can know if you’re actually talking to your loved one or not. Or, you could also ask them a question that only the supposed kidnap victim would know.

    While it’s easier said than done, try to remain calm in the situation, even while your ears may be deceiving you. Make attempts to contact your loved one through other means. If you can, attempt to have someone else reach them on a different phone.

    Please keep in mind, virtual kidnapping scams rely on manipulation and intimidation. By staying calm, and taking the necessary precautions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to these schemes.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 7, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , voice spoofing   

    Kidnapping scam brings terror to family 

    Kidnapping scam brings terror to family

    By Greg Collier

    For the better part of this year, we’ve been warning our readers about scams that use AI mimicked voices of your loved ones. Typically, these spoofed voices are used in the grandparent scam and the virtual kidnapping scam. In these scams, it’s crucial for the scammers to make their victims believe that a member of the victim’s family is in immediate danger. To that end, scammers will steal a recording of someone’s voice, usually from social media.

    That voice sample is then run through an AI program that will allow the scammer to make the voice say anything they want it to, such as pleas for help. It’s gotten to the point where we believe the voice spoofing versions of these scams have become more common than their analog predecessors. For now, we think it’s pretty safe to assume if there’s a grandparent or virtual kidnapping scam, an AI voice clone is probably involved.

    For example, two parents in Ohio almost fell victim to the virtual kidnapping scam. They received a call that sounded like it was coming from their adult daughter. The parents described the call sounded like their daughter was in a panic. The voice said they were blindfolded and being held in a trunk. Then a male voice got on the call, claiming to be a kidnapper who would harm their daughter if they didn’t pay a ransom.

    To make matters worse, the supposed kidnapper knew the daughter’s name and the area where she worked. This made the claim of kidnapping seem more credible to the parents.

    At first, the parents did the right thing. They tried calling their daughter from another line, but were unable to get a hold of her. Then they called 911, but were still under the impression their daughter had been legitimately kidnapped.

    They went to get the ransom from their bank, but the branch had just closed. The caller instructed the parents to go to a local Walmart, probably to send a money transfer to the scammers. Thankfully, the police caught up with the parents to let them know their daughter was in no harm and the call was a scam.

    Not everyone is up on the latest scams, so just imagine the sense of fear and terror they must have experienced. However, all it takes is a little bit of knowledge to protect yourself from this scam. As we often cite, kidnappings for ransom are actually quite rare in the U.S. If you have a loved one who is active on social media, scammers can use the information shared to make it seem like they’ve been plotting a kidnapping for a while. Again, this is done to make their con seem more authentic.

    In the unfortunate event you receive a call like this, do exactly what these parents did. Contact the loved one who has been supposedly kidnapped on another line. The odds are you’ll find them not only safe, but unaware they’re being used in a scam. Then call the police for their assistance. Lastly, even if it sounds like the exact voice of your loved one, be skeptical, as these days, voices can be easily duplicated.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    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 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Scam Round Up: Weird AI scam and more 

    Scam Round Up: Weird AI scam and more

    By Greg Collier

    Our first scam comes to us from Athens, Texas, where residents have been experiencing a twist in the arrest warrant scam, also known as a police impersonation scam. Typically, when scammers pose as police, they’ll call their intended victims and tell them they have a warrant out for their arrest, The scammers usually claim this for missed jury duty, but they can also claim a number of other infractions.

    For example, residents of Athens have complained the scammers are accusing their victims of using their phone to transmit a photo that traumatized a child. Essentially, the scammers accused their victims of sending explicit material to a child. The victim is then asked to pay several hundred dollars over the phone to resolve the complaint.

    That’s not how arrest warrants work. If there is a warrant for your arrest, especially one that’s supposedly this serious, the police are not going to call you over the phone. Also, no law enforcement agency will ask for money over the phone, and then ask for it in unusual ways, like gift cards or cryptocurrency, just to name a few.

    If you receive a call like this, hang up and call your local police at their emergency number. Not only can you verify there is no warrant for your arrest, you can let the police know scammers are working in your area.

    ***

    Police in Connecticut are warning residents there has been an uptick in check washing. Check washing typically involves stealing checks that are in outgoing mail. Thieves often steal the mail from residential mailboxes, along with the outdoor drop-off boxes used by the US Postal Service. They then dip the written checks in a chemical solution that removes the ink from the check, so the thieves can write the checks to themselves.

    The police in Connecticut are also warning residents the thieves can steal checks out of your trash. If you use your bank’s mobile app to deposit checks, and then throw the checks out, make sure they’re properly shredded before throwing them out, as check washing can still be performed on voided checks.

    If you have to write a check, which is going in the mail, use a gel-based ink pen. The ink in gel pens is said to be more resistant to check washing. Also, don’t put the envelope that holds the check in your mailbox and the put the mailbox flag up. This is a signal to thieves there may be a check in there.

    ***

    Lastly, we’ve read about another AI voice-spoofing scam. There has been a rash of these scams nationwide over the past year or so. In this scam, the victim gets a phone call where the voice sounds like exactly like one of the victim’s loved ones. The scammers manipulate the loved one’s voice in such a way where it sounds like the actual loved one is in some kind of trouble and needs money to resolve the issue. Typically, the scammers ask for bail money, or in some cases a ransom. However, the loved one is usually unaware their voice is being used in a scam.

    However, the recent news article we read out of Alabama, suggests scammers are using the voice-spoofing technique in identity theft. An Alabama woman received a call she thought was from her brother, but was actually from scammers. Instead of asking for money, they asked the woman for personal information. They then used this information to hijack her Facebook account and use that for additional scams. Police there have said the scammers used the videos the brother posted on social media to mimic his voice with AI.

    We can’t say for sure, but this sounds like the scammers may have been asking for the woman’s security questions in case she lost her Facebook password. Considering the answers to these questions are something like “What was your first pet’s name?” or “What city were you born?” these may seem like innocuous questions coming from a close family member.

    In cases like this, it’s best to ask the family member calling a question only they would know to verify their identity.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 20, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Scam Round Up: Fake cops threaten tenants and more 

    Scam Round Up: Fake cops threaten tenants and more

    By Greg Collier

    Our first scam of the day comes to us from a warning from the New York City Police Department. The NYPD says they’ve seen an increase in a charity scam that involves Venmo and your phone. Scammers are approaching NYC residents while pretending they’re working for a charity.

    The scammers will ask for a donation through the personal payment app Venmo. The victim will be provided the information to make the donation, but the donation won’t go through. This is when the scammer will ask for the victim’s phone to help them make the donation. Instead, the scammers are sending the entire amount of the victim’s Venmo account to themselves.

    The NYPD is telling residents not to hand their phones over to strangers, especially if they’re asking for donations. Please keep in mind, Venmo was intended to be used between family and friends.

    ***

    We’ve been keeping a close eye on the scams that involve AI-generated voice-spoofing. Scammers will take someone’s voice either from social media or their voicemail message and run it through an AI voice program that will allow them to make someone’s voice say just about anything they want. Typically, voice-spoofing is used in the grandparent and virtual kidnapping scams. In these scams, scammers need the victim to believe they’re talking to a loved one.

    The most recent report we have on this is out of Atlanta, where a mother was confronted with this scam. She received a call she thought was from her adult daughter. She heard her daughter’s voice before someone on the call said her daughter saw something she shouldn’t have and has now been kidnapped. The caller demanded $50,000 in ransom.

    Thankfully, her husband was able to get a hold of her daughter, who was in no real danger.

    If you receive a phone call like this, always try to reach the person who has been supposedly kidnapped through other means. Even if you have a full conversation with someone who sounds just like your loved one, always verify the story. Ask them a question only they would know, or set up a family code word ahead of time that would signify who you were talking to.

    ***

    Residents of Newark, New Jersey, have reported that people posing as police have been going around to tenants and demanding multiple months worth of rent. If the phony officers don’t get the money, they threaten the tenants with eviction and arrest.

    In New Jersey, an eviction can’t be carried out until the landlord has received a judgment in court.

    If you’re renting your home or apartment, you should familiarize yourself with your state’s or county’s eviction process.

    Also, keep in mind, legitimate police will never show up at your door asking for your rent money. If someone claiming to be police does show up at your door, call the police department they’re supposedly from and verify if an officer has been dispatched to your home.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    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
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    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
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    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.

     
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