Home Advice & How-ToSafety How to Stay Safe from Al Voice Scams
Home Advice & How-ToSafety How to Stay Safe from Al Voice Scams

How to Stay Safe from Al Voice Scams

by Spokeo

Robocalls made using AI-generated voices are now illegal in the US, according to a new ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The move comes in the wake of a significant rise in AI voice cloning scams.  In these fairly sophisticated scams, criminals use AI-generated voices to impersonate politicians, celebrities, or even close family members with the ultimate goal of convincing victims to comply with some fraudulent request, like sending them cash.

Here’s what you need to know about AI voice scams, including how they work and, most importantly, how to protect yourself. 

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Understanding AI Scams

AI scams leverage artificial intelligence to mimic human behavior, language, interactions, and even decision-making processes.  This then enables scammers to execute various deceptive schemes aimed at defrauding individuals and organizations.

These scams can take several forms, including:

  • AI voice clone scams: Here, criminals use AI to create fake voices resembling those of trusted individuals (such as family members or friends), corporate executives, public officials, celebrities, or even entities like banks and government institutions.  The scammers then use these voices to dupe victims into making payments or sharing sensitive information.
  • Deepfake scams: This is where malicious persons use AI to create fake images or videos that convincingly depict real people doing or saying things they didn’t.  The fabricated visuals can be used to manipulate opinions, spread disinformation, or even blackmail individuals.
  • Phishing email and text scams: Here, criminals again use AI to generate personalized emails or texts that mimic the style of legitimate companies or organizations.  The aim here is to trick you into divulging sensitive information or clicking on links that may lead to malware or other malicious content.

How Do AI Voice Scams Work?

A specific type of AI voice scam that has been making a lot of headlines in recent times involves criminals cloning the voice of a family member and then using it to convince a loved one to send the scammer money.

This is a relatively elaborate attack that involves several phases.

First, the attacker finds a voice sample of the person they are trying to impersonate.  They can get it from a variety of sources, including the person’s social media or from public interviews they’ve participated in.  Recent advances in fake voice generation technology means that sometimes, all a scammer needs is just a few seconds of audio recording

The scammer then feeds this sample into a voice cloning tool which creates a digital replica of the voice capable of producing speech that sounds remarkably similar to the original voice.  Next, the criminal uses the AI-generated voice to record audio stating that they are in a difficult situation and need money.  

They might fabricate scenarios such as being involved in an accident and needing cash to settle with the other driver, getting arrested and requiring money for bail, or being stranded in an unfamiliar or dangerous area and needing funds to purchase a plane ticket home.

The deceitful voice message is then sent to the intended victim, typically via voicemail.  The voice can be so persuasive that many recipients will send money without any hesitation after hearing it.

How to Stay Safe From AI Voice Scams

While it can be difficult to differentiate a fake voice from a real one, there are several proactive measures you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of an AI-voice cloning scam.

Verify the caller’s identity

If you receive a suspicious or unexpected voicemail, particularly one that involves money, take a moment to verify the caller through other means.  For example, reach out to the person of interest using a different number you’ve previously used to communicate with them.  You can also ask them to call you back at a number you know is theirs or trust.

ai voice scam magnifying suspicion

Treat all urgent requests with suspicion

Scammers will always try to create a sense of urgency with their fraudulent requests.  They want you to overlook your better judgment and make a hasty decision.  If the person is urging you to act fast, that’s a red flag.

Trust your instincts

If something feels off, trust your instincts.  It’s better to err on the side of caution and take steps to verify the authenticity of a call than to become the victim of a scam.

Educate yourself about AI voice scams

Knowledge and awareness are crucial defenses against AI scams.  Stay updated with all the latest trends in AI scams.  Share your knowledge or experiences with others to build a communal defense against these scams.

Limit personal information sharing

Another way to avoid falling prey to AI voice scammers is to limit the amount of personal information you share online.  Remember that scammers can use personal details they’ve taken from social media and other online sources to make their impersonations more believable. 

Check for anomalies in the voice message

Even though AI-voice clones can be highly convincing, they might still exhibit subtle anomalies or inconsistencies.  For example, pay attention to unusual pauses, odd tones, and cadences, or background noises that don’t fit the context of the message.

Report suspected scams

If you encounter what you believe to be an AI voice or deepfake scam, report it to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your local consumer protection agency.  Reporting can help authorities track the perpetrators and thus combat these scams.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how AI voice cloning scams work and implementing some of the preventative measures we’ve outlined here can reduce the risk for you and those around you.

If you’ve already fallen victim, the best thing to do is to take immediate action. Report the matter to your bank and the appropriate authorities.  You might still be able to recover your funds, though it’s not guaranteed.  Sharing your experience with others can also help raise awareness, making it harder for scammers to find new victims.

Looking ahead, reverse phone lookup tools like Spokeo can offer protection against AI scammers.  If someone leaves you a voicemail claiming to be a family member in an emergency, a quick reverse phone lookup through Spokeo can reveal the real owner of the number.  This can then help you determine whether the request is legitimate, or if you’re dealing with a scammer.

Give Spokeo a try today.


Federal Communications Commission: FCC Makes AI-Generated Voices in Robocalls Illegal

PCMag: Microsoft’s AI Program Can Clone Your Voice From a 3-Second Audio Clip

Sean LaPointe is an expert freelance writer with experience in finance and tech. He has written for several well-known brands and publications, including The Motley Fool, Finder, and CapLinked.