Family targeted by AI scam using loved one’s voice

An Athens, Alabama, family said an AI voice scam call has left them rattled.
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 10:44 AM MST
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ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF/Gray News) - As scams using artificial intelligence spread across the country, one Alabama family is sharing their story to warn others.

Experts explain that the scam uses AI to replicate the voice of a loved one with the intention to steal your money.

Natalie Tease was at home watching a YouTube video when her phone mimicked a call from her daughter, Olivia, and a voice, that sounded exactly like her came through the speakers, screaming that her husband is dead.

Tease said the voice’s words made her heart drop.

“I picked up the phone to listen to it and it was Olivia’s voice screaming hysterically, ‘Mom help me, help me. Will’s dead. Help me,’” she said.

Tease and her husband were terrified, as they both believed that the voice was really that of their daughter.

Tease immediately called her daughter’s actual number, ending the AI conversation.

Experts say that is typically how the scam starts, with the voice of a loved one crying and relaying tragic news. Then, experts say, the voice will typically ask for financial aid for their emergency situation.

Tease said the conversation was over before the scammers could ask for money, but she says she knows what she would have done if the conversation took that turn.

“I probably would have done anything they asked for at that moment,” she said.

Cyber security expert Marcus Sachs said these AI scams are rapidly spreading across the county. He says the criminals choose a victim and gather information, like the audio of a loved one’s voice and public information about a tragic event. Then they craft an AI persona and strike.

Sachs suggests asking to call your loved one back if you think the call is a scam. Another sign that it could be a scam is if the caller urges you to not hang up.

As for Olivia, whose last name was withheld, she said the progression of AI in modern society is no longer something she supports.

“Initially when this stuff started coming out it was interesting, but then for it to be warped into this evil stuff that’s going on, it’s just tragic,” Olivia said.

The family now plans to develop a safe word to be sure it’s their loved one on the other end of the line.