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AI Phone Scams: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown Caller

AI Phone Scams: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown Caller

May 14, 2024

“Hello, who is this?” With phone scammers now using AI to clone human voices, it may be hard to tell who is calling.

Over the last year, new phone scams have emerged that utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to trick individuals into thinking that they are receiving a phone call from a loved one or even a celebrity. These scammers take a small sample of audio of an individual’s voice, sometimes from a social media post, and use AI software to pose as them over a phone call.

One type of audio deepfake scam makes it seem like a loved one is calling to ask for money to get out of an emergency. These scams play on people’s emotions, so they quickly and rashly send money through services like Western Union, MoneyGram, and mobile payment apps like Venmo, cryptocurrency, or gift cards. If you get an unexpected call from a loved one asking for money through one of these methods, you may want to think twice before sending them anything. Asking a question that only that person would know or just hanging up and calling that person directly may help you avoid falling victim to a scam.

Another way bad actors use this technology is by posing as a celebrity or a prominent political figure to mislead individuals. During the recent New Hampshire primary, voters received phone calls from an AI-generated voice clone posing as the president telling them not to go to the polls to vote.

While AI may be used to trick unsuspecting callers, new AI technology can also help to detect these voice clones. The Federal Trade Commission recently held a contest that awarded companies who developed software that can be used to accurately decipher when a call is a real human and when it is an audio deepfake. One of the winners of the contest created software that utilizes sensors to detect a specific combination of breathing, motion, and heartbeats that accompany a real human voice.

If you would like to learn more about the complex role that AI plays in our lives, join author and The New York Times tech reporter Kashmir Hill for a discussion about the ethics of emerging technologies. This will be the second installment of the Library’s Facing the Future speaker series and will be held June 20, 2024, in the Auditorium at Woodneath Library Center. Free copies of Hill's book, Your Face Belongs to Us, will be available for attendees while supplies last, and there will be a book signing immediately following the event. Our first event filled up quickly, so register now!

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