Scammers now using voice cloning technology

Taking Action

Scammers can spoof your phone number, pretend to be the IRS and now they can clone your voice. The Better Business Bureau warns scammers are now using voice mimicking software to pretend to be your boss or a loved one in need.

Barry N. Moore, President and CEO the Central Virginia BBB says, “This is a pretty scary one, it’s the world of artificial intelligence.”

Moore explained how it works. He says, “Somebody gets a little snippet of your voice.”

To do that they may make a fake phone call. When the person on the other line says, answers or tells the call they have the wrong number, the scammer already has all they need.

“That little snippet of three, four or five seconds maybe enough for them to start copying the sound of your voice,” said Moore.

The con artists then turn to their voice mimicking software. A wide range of Silicon Valley giants and artificial intelligence start-ups are producing such voice-synthesis technology. Google and smaller firms like Lyrebird have helped make the tools widely available.

They thieves can now easily clone a voice and create convincing voicemails that can trick you into sending money to a so-called business account. It already happened to a British energy company. The CEO was duped into wiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to scammers.

“These are criminals that are doing this, it’s not going to be fun and games sort of thing,” Moore told 8News.

8News has learned it’s happened here in Virginia. We’re told a grandfather was fooled into taking out bail money after listening to a frantic voicemail he thought was from his granddaughter in Richmond. The voicemail said she who was supposedly in jail.

So what can you or your business do? The BBB says make it an office policy to confirm all payment requests or changes. The BBB also says it’s a good idea for businesses and families to have a code word for anything involving money.

“I don’t care if it’s for ten dollars. If I don’t say Rumpelstiltskin in the conversation than it’s not me and don’t send any money,” Moore explained.

Often victims are embarrassed that they have been fooled but if you have been the BBB urges you to report it. It can help expose tactics and prevent others from falling victim.

You can report scams here at BBB.org/ScamTracker. In January, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on voice cloning. You can check out highlights here.

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