BBB warns of artificial intelligence phone call scams

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Better Business Bureau is warning of a scam that uses artificial intelligence to mimic people’s voices in phony phone calls.

It’s a classic scam: People receive phone calls from someone impersonating a loved one, claiming they’re in an emergency.

“They’re in a car accident, they’re in the hospital, they’ve been arrested or something like that, and the bottom line is they’re asking for something. They’re usually asking for money,” said Katie Grevious, marketing and community relations manager for the Better Business Bureau in Western Michigan.

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Now the traditional scheme has a new twist as AI continues to develop.

“Scammers can take your voice or a loved one’s voice off of anything as simple as a recording if you post on social media apps, if you have videos of you out there talking, or you answer a phone call and you speak a couple of words, they can take your voice and manipulate it to say to whatever they want it to say,” Grevious said.

The use of AI makes it harder and harder to determine whether the person you’re talking to actually is that person.

“They want you to think with your heart instead of your head and prey on that emotion, and prey on they want to help those loved ones,” Grevious said.

These types of scams are causing some serious concern. During his recent State of the Union address, President Biden weighed in on certain uses of AI.

“Ban AI voice impersonations and more,” Biden said.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

“As hard as it may seem in those situations, you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and actually think about what’s happening,” Grevious said.

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There are also a couple of red flags that usually stick out when you may be the target of a scam.

“A lot of the times, we’ll see scammers posing as loved ones and asking to wire transfer money, buying gift cards because those are untraceable methods, and once that money’s gone you can’t get it back,” Grevious said.

She said taking small precautionary steps can prevent a big headache.

“You can call the parents of your grandkids, you can call a friend and call a neighbor and let them know what’s going on and the conversation you just had, because you even if you are emotionally invested, they may be able to spot red flags,” Grevious said.

In February, the FCC declared that robocalls made with AI voice cloning technology are illegal.

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