Imagine this: you get a phone call from your child, spouse, or friend, who is crying and begging for help. They say they have been kidnapped and the kidnappers are threatening to harm them unless you pay a ransom. You hear a voice in the background, demanding that you wire money to a certain account or buy gift cards and send them the codes. You panic and do whatever they ask, hoping to save your loved one.
But what if the whole thing was a lie? What if the voice you heard was not your loved one, but a fake one created by artificial intelligence (AI)? What if you just fell victim to an AI kidnapping scam?
This is not a hypothetical scenario. It is a real and growing threat that has been reported in several countries, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and India. According to the FBI, virtual kidnapping scams are on the rise, and scammers are using AI tools to make their calls more convincing and realistic.
Voice cloning technology is a type of AI that can simulate a specific person’s voice by analyzing and learning their unique vocal characteristics. This technology can generate realistic-sounding speech from a sample of someone’s voice, or even synthesize a new voice from scratch.
The scammers may obtain the voice sample of the target from various sources, such as social media posts, voicemail messages, phone calls, or online videos. They may also use social engineering techniques to trick the target into providing their voice sample, such as pretending to be from a bank, a survey company, or a tech support service.
Once they have the voice sample, they use an AI software or an online service to clone or synthesize the voice. They may also edit or manipulate the voice to make it sound more emotional or distressed. Then they use the fake voice to call the target’s loved one and pretend to be in danger.
The scammers may also use other tactics to make their calls more believable, such as:
The AI kidnapping scam can be very frightening and stressful, but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from falling prey to it. Here are some tips:
The FBI is aware of this scam and is working with other law enforcement agencies and international partners to identify and stop the perpetrators. The FBI has also issued public alerts and warnings about this scam and provided tips on how to avoid it and what to do if you receive such a call.
If you suspect that you have been targeted by an AI kidnapping scam or any other type of fraud, it is important that you report it as soon as possible. Reporting a scam can help prevent other people from falling victim to it and help authorities track down and stop the scammers.
There are different ways to report a scam depending on where you live and what kind of scam it is. Here are some common options:
This is the official website of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices in the US. You can use this website to report any type of scam or fraud that affects you or someone you know. You can also get tips on how to avoid scams and recover from identity theft.
This is a tool provided by USA.gov that helps you find the right place to report a scam based on your answers to some questions. You can also find links to other government agencies and consumer organizations that deal with specific types of scams, such as online, phone, or mail scams.
You can also contact your local police department to report a scam, especially if you have lost money or personal information, or if you feel threatened or unsafe. The police can help you file a report and provide you with assistance and resources.
If you have sent money or given your bank or credit card details to a scammer, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately. They can help you stop any unauthorized transactions, cancel your cards, and protect your accounts.
The AI kidnapping scam is a serious and evolving threat that can cause emotional and financial harm to its victims. By being aware of how it works and how to prevent it, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming its next targets.