Athens family targeted by AI scam using loved one’s voice

WAFF 48's Claudia Peppenhorst reporting
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 8:56 PM CDT
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ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - Artificial Intelligence voice scams are spreading across the country and they have made their way to north Alabama.

In these scams, experts say AI replicates the voice of your loved ones with the intention to steal your money. For a family here in the Valley, this nightmare scam was a reality.

The scam can start with a phone call and when you pick up the call it seems as though it is from a loved one. Except when you answer, you hear them screaming and crying about a tragic accident and they may ask for money for their emergency situation.

For one family in Athens, the scenario sounds oddly familiar. Natalie Tease was at home watching a YouTube video, when all of a sudden a voice, that sounds exactly like her daughter Olivia, came through the speakers screaming that her husband is dead. Natalie 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.

Natalie immediately ended the AI conversation and called Olivia’s actual number. Natalie and her husband were terrified, as they both believed that this was their real daughter.

Natalie said the AI 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,” Natalie said.

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

Sachs suggests asking to call back if you think a call like this is a scam. If the caller urges you to not hang up, it could be a scam.

As for Olivia, she said the progression of AI in modern society is no longer something she’s a supporter of.

“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.

Olivia and her family now plan to develop a safe word to be sure it’s their loved one on the other end of the line.

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