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AI voice scheme nearly tricks San Diego woman in high-tech “grandparent scam”

The North County grandma said the voice sounded exactly like her grandson
AI voice scam
Posted at 9:01 AM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 14:26:57-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — It’s a high-tech twist on the popular “grandparent scam.” Artificial intelligence is now making it more realistic.

The grandparent scam is when you receive a call from someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble to get your money.

One local grandmother almost lost thousands of dollars in this scheme.

Maureen, who did not want to use her last name for privacy concerns, said she picked up a call from an anonymous number.

“The reason I answered it was because I have a sister. [Her call] comes in like that,” Maureen said.

She said she heard a familiar voice on the phone. “The voice on the other end, said ‘Grandma, grandma. I’m in trouble. I need your help,’” Maureen recalled.

The person she thought was her grandson proceeded to say he’s been in a car accident, had a neck brace on, and he was going to the police station.

“It sounded exactly like him or else I would have never believed it,” Maureen said. Her supposed grandson said he needed $8,200 for bail.

An attorney also jumped on the call and told Maureen her grandson hit a diplomat and is in a lot of trouble. The man also advised her that she couldn’t tell anyone what happened for 72 hours.

Maureen told ABC 10News she was “scared to death” for her grandson.

She went to the bank to get money, but before she gave that cash to anyone, she called her daughter. Her daughter told her that her grandson was not in trouble but at a golf tournament.

That is when the scammer called again and instead, Maureen’s daughter spoke to him. “He proceeded to call her all kinds of horrible ugly names,” Maureen said.

Federal agencies say technology is making these scams more believable, spoofing voices and tricking more people. The Federal Trade Commission said all a scammer needs is a “short audio clip of your family member’s voice” and a voice cloning program.

“I have no doubt in my mind it was him. That’s the scary part,” Maureen said.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, you can protect yourself by following a few steps:

  • Always go to the source and verify the person, even if the caller said you cannot tell anyone.
  • Don’t trust Caller ID because numbers can be easily spoofed
  • Inform your mobile carrier

You can also report the fraud to the FTC.

Maureen said her family now uses an extra safety step in case she gets another urgent call.

“Our family has what’s called a safe word, and it should be a word that nobody else would know. Don’t send it in a text or email. call them directly on the phone,” Maureen said. “It was so terrifying emotionally. I don’t want anybody to have to go through this.”