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Voice Clones Are Ripping You Off

Remember when you used to answer your old dial-up phone with a cheery Hello? Well, even with cell phones, we all tend to carry on that habit. And according to CBS News, the Federal Trade Commission is now strongly suggesting you … Cut. That. Stuff. Out!

Why? Because of scammers and our new world of advanced AI tech.

Scammers, it seems, are picking up people’s voices from all over the place, then creating a voice clone that they can use in deceptive ways. That cloning tech is becoming cheaper and cheaper. All a scammer needs these days is a few short seconds of someone’s voice and they can pretty quickly duplicate enough of a deep-fake facsimile to trick someone who’s on the other end of a phone line.

Facebook videos, voice mail recordings, TikTok vids, you name it, are all rich voice-capture sources that a crook can draw from. Not to mention very easy to access.

Then it’s on to the classic scam where someone gets a panicked call from a loved one in the middle of the night. The caller is desperately in need of help. Tearful phrases such as I’m in jail or I’m stuck or the car broke down can quickly get a mark (that’s you) to sit up and pull out their credit cards. And, of course, it’s all done in a rush so there’s no time to think about it. And that’s especially true when the injured person on the phone sounds just like your daughter, your grandson, your sister.

Oh, and a seasoned scammer can even fake the proper phone number when they call as well. It sounds like your daughter. It’s her number. It all fits! It’s all legit. But in truth, it’s not at all.

If you’re just now hearing about this new nasty trend, and you’re anything like me, your first thought is likely: Arrgh! So what do I do now?

Here are a few suggestions:

First of all, take a few deep breathes.

Secondly, don’t automatically trust the voice you think you recognize on the phone. Ask questions, listen for something that might seem off. It’s also a good idea to have a simple code word you share with family members.

Thirdly, never give out money over the phone. (That’s a major red flag.) Don’t be doling out cybercurrency or credit card numbers or offering your bank account information or wire transfers or gift cards. (I know, those last bits sound like a stretch, but they happen.)

And lastly, it’s always wise to hang up and call back the person the caller claims to be on a number you trust and recognize. If you can’t get in touch with them at that number, try social media or ask a family member or friend if they have heard from them. It’s not as tough as you may think to get to the truth of a matter.

Oh, and as a cautionary step, you might also want to protect your voice from potential voice cloners.

So delete that great customized voicemail you made or any online videos that you think might be usable by some small-time thug. And as to that above-mentioned FTC warning, the commission suggests that you refrain from saying anything when you pick up a call from a number you don’t recognize. Wait to let them talk first. And if someone starts talking and you get even the slightest hint that it’s a scam, hang up.

Yeah, I know, that dumps all the heavy lifting of cautionary duties into your lap. But that’s the world we live in. Our world hasn’t yet been overrun by zombies. But crooks and clones? They’re a-callin.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

2 Responses

  1. -Whenever we read articles like this, we should all stop and remember that God is in control, and that if we trust in Jesus Christ as our lord and savior, then we have nothing to fear. John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    1. – Yes, God is in control, but that doesn’t mean that earthly tragedies don’t befall people. A friend of mine’s elderly relative got scammed out of enormous amount of money through a scheme much less sophisticated than this. Yes, God is in control, but we need to do something to stop this.