We’ve all made the mistake of trusting a service provider with our phone number and having it leaked, sold off to a third party, or using a service like a job site that has seen our phone number scrapped and ending up on lists of scammers.
Scam callers use these lists to call unsuspecting individuals, either trying to sell them something or pretending to be a service provider they use to solicit payments over the phone. These scams are often not very sophisticated and target the most vulnerable individuals like senior citizens, the young or the naive.
While the conversion rates on these scams are less effective than they once were as consumers wise up and services like True Caller help identify spam numbers, these barriers only encourage scammers to become more creative.
The launch of AI services to the general public, both closed-sourced and open-source, has unleashed a flurry of new activity in many markets, bringing positive change and ensuring people can improve their productivity.
Still, it can also be used for malicious use cases.
One growing use case for AI is voice dubbing, where programs can capture a sample of someone’s voice and use it to mimic scripts in their tone of voice. These programs were designed to make dubbing content into different languages easier and cheaper to do, but scammers have found another use for it.
AI clone phone scams are a new type of phone scam that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic human voices and create realistic conversations. These scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are difficult to distinguish from legitimate calls.
How do AI clone phone scams work?
AI clone scammers usually research their targets and look for persons with online profiles that are public or those who have provided enough content online to feed into their AI.
They will acquire files like voice recordings, YouTube and other social media videos or record their mark while speaking to them on the phone to build up a data warehouse.
Once they have enough voice samples, they will apply it to a pre-written script and create voice notes to send or fake calls to family or friends of the mark.
AI phone scammers typically use a variety of tactics to trick their victims. One common tactic is to impersonate a trusted person, such as a family member, friend, or government official. Another tactic is to create a sense of urgency by claiming that the victim is in immediate danger or that they have won a prize.
AI phone scammers may also use deepfakes to create fake videos or audio recordings of their victims and leverage personal information to make the content more believable. This can be used to convince victims that they are speaking to someone they know and trust.
To give you an idea of some of the tactics, below is a scam script these clone callers are using.
“Mom, I need to talk to you. I, I was going to interview someone today for a story I’m working on and I was involved in a car accident. I’m okay, but I need your help right now. I, I hit the other car’s bumper. They want $1,000 to cover the cost to repair the damage or they’ll call the police and report it to insurance. They need the money now, and I need your help. Can you please send me $1,000 over Zelle? I can tell you how to do it,” the voice clone said.Example of AI voice clone script – Source: Fox Business
Why AI phone scams request Bitcoin payments
In the example script above, the scammer is pushing for a Zelle payment. Still, they also use other payment platforms like PayPal, Revolut and Cash App, which seem familiar to the mark, and they might already have an account.
While the scammer might have a better conversion rate when using a service like this, they know they are on borrowed time as these accounts can be shut down when reported, and in some cases, funds can be tracked, blocked or recovered.
To reduce their exposure to fintech companies, secure funds from anywhere in the world, and expand their scam’s reach, a move towards Bitcoin has become more popular. Many of these Fintech apps, like Cash App, offer Bitcoin payments, which makes it easier for the scammer to secure funds on-chain without giving the mark too much friction in sending the payment.
AI phone scammers often request Bitcoin payments because Bitcoin is a decentralised currency that is difficult to track at some point if the scammer uses CoinJoin, and it is impossible to refund once the user has sent the payment. This makes it easier for scammers to receive and later launder payments without being caught.
How to protect yourself from AI phone scams
The goal of this scammer is either to appeal to your good nature, as someone who would always help a loved one in need, or to get you into fight or flight and to create urgency in your mind that your loved one is in some trouble, encouraging you to react without thinking things through.
Since the goal is to get you to act emotively, the best way to deal with this situation is to slow things down, ask questions, and force them to go off script and make mistakes. If you’re not confident, take your time, hang up and consider double checking with alternative sources before you action any payment.
If you suspect it is a fraudulent call, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from AI phone scams:
- Be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, especially if the caller is claiming to be from a government agency or financial institution.
- If you receive a call from a loved one, try to confirm that they did call you by sending them a text or calling them back on their mobile phone number.
- Never give out personal information, such as your Social Security number or credit card number, over the phone.
- If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a family member or friend, ask them a question that only they would know the answer to.
- If you are unsure about the authenticity of a call, hang up and call the person back at a known phone number.
- If someone requests Bitcoin, do not send it to any on-chain address or pay any Lightning Network invoice.
If you’re confident that the caller is a scammer, you can also use a call-blocking app to block calls from known scammers, which will also help others who use this call-blocking service avoid scammers.
What to do if you are a victim of an AI phone scam?
If you think you have been a victim of an AI phone scam, it is important to report the scam to the authorities. You can also file a complaint with your local authorities and provide them with all the information you have, like the phone number, account number, and payment information used. If you paid using a fintech app or your bank, contact them immediately and try to have the payment blocked or put on hold.
If you have sent Bitcoin to a scammer, it is unlikely that you will be able to get your money back. However, it’s worth checking if the payment is sent to an exchange, and you can report the scam to the Bitcoin exchange where you sent the money.
The exchange may be able to help you track down the scammer and recover your funds. It is also important to warn your friends and family about AI phone scams so that they can avoid being victims.
Do your own research.
If you want to learn more about scams, use this article as a jumping-off point and don’t trust what we say as the final say. Take the time to research, check out their official resources below or review other articles and videos tackling the topic.