Ontario man out $8K in scam that uses AI to mimic voices of friends and family
An Ontario man has lost $8,000 in a new impersonator scam where suspects use artificial intelligence to mimic the voice of friends and family.
“I honestly believe it was my good friend, because it sounded so much like him,” said the man, who CTV News Toronto has chosen to identify only as Sam.
The Vaughan, Ont. man said he got a call from someone claiming to be a friend who he planned to go fishing with in the near future. The individual said he had been arrested for texting while driving and causing a serious accident.
“He said that it would cost about $8,000 cash to bail him out,” Sam said, adding the voice “sounded identical to him.”
“His mannerisms too were identical and that’s what sort of trapped me into this whole ordeal.”
What followed was a series of other phone calls from someone claiming to be his friend’s lawyer and Sam eventually handed over $8,000 for the bail money.
But when the scammers made another attempt to get more money, Sam decided to call his friend, who confirmed he was fine and completely unaware of what had been happening.
“When the scammer phoned me back I said I knew he wasn’t my friend and there was a pause and then it went to his normal voice. It was no longer the A.I. assisted,” Sam said.
Voice cloning by criminals to impersonate friends and family members is a growing problem in Canada and it is already a massive problem for Americans, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which getting many complaints.
The FTC said consumers lost $2.6 billion to impersonation scams last year.
Lois Greisman, Associate Director of Division of Marketing Practices with FTC, said voice cloning is a huge problem that consumers need to become knowledgeable about to avoid being scammed.
“Voice cloning is real. They can take a snippet of your voice and reproduce it so it’s virtually indistinguishable from you,” Greisman said.
To clone your voice, a scammer just needs a few seconds of your speech, which they can record in person, take from social media or even from your phone’s answering machine.
The common denominator in any impersonator scam is a sense of urgency with the caller asking for money in a hurry.
“That is the number one red flag. The request for emergency money by wire transfer, gift card or even by cash,” Greisman said.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be a friend or family member in an emergency, reach out to them directly.
It’s also not just friends and family. Businesses have to be careful someone doesn’t call pretending to be the boss needing money.
To avoid being scammed, experts suggest having a special “code word”, but if you have any doubts hang up and call the person directly.