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AI scam artists impersonate familiar voices to scam the rest of us

AI scam artists impersonate familiar voices to scam
AI scam artists impersonate familiar voices to scam 02:57

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More Pennsylvanians than ever are getting telephone calls from people with remarkably familiar voices.

But as KDKA-TV money editor Jon Delano reports, it could be the latest scam involving artificial intelligence.

When Janis Creason got a call from an unknown telephone number, she answered it, thinking it was a doctor's call she was expecting.

"Heard on the phone my daughter sobbing," Creason of Lower Paxton Township. "'Mom, I've been in an accident. My nose is broken.' I recognized that voice as my daughter."

Turns out that it was a scam artist using artificial intelligence to replicate her daughter's voice while someone else got on the line to make a pitch for money. It's called AI voice scamming, and it's hard to detect.

"Her voice alone gave it credibility, tremendous credibility," Creason said. "I think that's the most insidious part of it."

Cyber experts say criminals take our voices posted on social media and then use artificial intelligence to create an imposter phone call that sounds just like us. So how can we know what's real and what is not?

First, double-check calls from an unknown number and don't rely on caller ID.

"You can call the family member or person that made the call, or if this is a call that is a sophisticated artificial intelligence misuse and you're talking to someone, you can ask specific questions where you know the answers will tell whether it's legitimate," said David Hickton, the founder of Pitt Cyber.

Hickton, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, says if money is requested, always be skeptical. You can also set up code words to identify loved ones, says cyber security expert Greg Porter.

"Think of code words or maybe phrases that you can decide on beforehand, particularly if you have people who are college-aged or individuals who are often consuming these types of technology,' Porter said.

Congressman Chris Deluzio, who used to work at Pitt Cyber, says more people also need to report these criminals.

"Just because someone is using new fancy technology like AI doesn't mean that the traditional laws against fraud don't apply.  They do," he said.

As for Creason, she reached out to her daughter on her cell phone.

"I kept texting her," Creason said. "'Please call me right away no matter what you're doing. Please get in touch with me.' Finally, that text got through and she goes, "Mom, I don't know why you keep calling me. I'm in a conference.' And I said that's the best text I've ever had in my life."

A happy ending for the Creasons, and a warning for the rest of us. 

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