How to Defend Yourself Against AI Voice Cloning Scams

Key Takeaways

  • Voice cloning scams are on the rise and can tap into our emotions to make us act irrationally. Beware and stay alert.
  • Signs of a voice cloning scam include inconsistencies in vocal cadence, urgency, and unfamiliar phone numbers.
  • Protect yourself by creating a safe phrase with loved ones, taking time to think before taking immediate action, and verifying information independently.

Cloning someone’s voice using AI is now easy enough even scammers can do it. People are already being victimized by this abuse of AI technology, but you don’t have to be the next person to fall for the scam. Here’s how you can beat them before they get you.

How Voice Cloning Scams Work

Imagine getting a phone call from a family member. It’s 3AM, they’ve been in an accident, they’ve been arrested, they need money to post bail. You get passed to his “lawyer” and are asked to wire money. This is what happened to attorney Gary Schildhorn. What about getting a call from your daughter, claiming that she’s been kidnapped, but she’s asleep in bed. That happened to Jennifer DeStefano, and could have ended much worse if the scammers had timed things differently.

By misusing AI software tools that can create voice profiles from, for example, videos someone might leave on social media, scammers can tap into our emotions to make us behave irrationally. This is already happening and will only increase in sophistication, so there’s no better time to arm yourself with knowledge and strategies to combat this.

Signs That You’re Being Scammed

While it can be hard to tell the difference between a cloned voice and the real thing, there are a few signs that might tip you off that something isn’t right:

  • The vocal cadence, pronunciation, vocabulary, and style aren’t quite right. Sure, people can sound different in an emergency, but try to pay attention to the finer details of their speech, and it might tip you off.
  • The scammer will try to spend as little time as possible speaking with you, likely handing you off to a stranger so that you won’t catch on.
  • There’s a massive sense of urgency, even when there doesn’t need to be. Scammers aren’t likely to use a true emergency as a pretense, since that doesn’t fit their needs.
  • The phone number is unfamiliar, although numbers can be spoofed of course.

The most important thing is to be aware that such scams are possible, and to have healthy skepticism when you’re confronted by these types of semi-emergency scenarios.

Decide on a Safe Phrase With Family and Friends

The scammers have done some research on the information that’s publicly available about you and the person they are impersonating. However, if you take the time to come up with a safe word or a phrase that’s only known to you and your loved ones, then you can confirm you’re speaking to the real person. This phrase must never be written down or sent over the internet.

Then, if you ever receive an emergency call, you can just ask for the safe word and unless the scammer can somehow guess it, you’ll stop the whole scam in its tracks.

Stop to Think

A hallmark of scams, both old and new, is to stop you from having time to think. The less time we have to make decisions, the worse our decisions tend to be. They don’t want you thinking too much or you might notice gaps in the story or realize you’re being asked to do unreasonable or illogical things. So, once you’re off the phone, take five minutes and just think about everything that’s been said. Does it really all make sense?

Get Third-Party Information Verification

Finally, the easiest way to expose one of these scams is to take control over where your information is coming from. Have you only been speaking to people who have phoned you? Phone the person who supposedly called you. Phone someone close to them. Message them, do anything using a communication channel the scammers have no control over. You can figure out if something has really happened in seconds just by taking a minute to do your own investigations.

The most powerful weapon against scams like these are the simple knowledge that they exist. After all, if you didn’t know this was possible, how could you defend against it. Now you do know, so there’s no reason to fall for that trick we first saw in the Terminator movies.


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