Estate Planning

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Beware the Rise of Voice Cloning Scams

by Rania Combs

My client narrowly avoided becoming the victim of a voice cloning scam.

The man who called her sounded like her son. He was sobbing and told her he had been in an accident. The driver of the other car was pregnant. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital with injuries and police officers arrested him. He said needed bail money. He gave my client the phone number of the supposed public defender assigned to his case to arrange for bail. 

Alarmed, my client rushed to the bank to initiate the transfer. As a precaution, the bank suggested she call her son to confirm he was really in trouble. She had not called him because she had been told the police confiscated his phone. To her relief her son answered. “I’m fine,” he said. 

“Rania, it was my son’s voice on the other line,” she said. “I know his voice.” 

Voice Cloning Scams on the Rise

Family emergency scams are not new. Most of us have received email messages purporting to be from friends and family members claiming they are in trouble and in need of urgent financial assistance. But voice cloning technology has added a chilling new dimension to these scams.

The impact of voice cloning scams can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. Victims may suffer significant financial losses, as well as feelings of betrayal and violation of trust. And these scams are on the rise. According to a recent report published by McAfee, 25% of people surveyed globally said they had either experienced a voice cloning scam or knew someone who had.

How Voice Cloning Works

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made voice cloning more accessible and convincing than ever before. A majority of adults share voice data online every week. With just a three-second audio sample, cybercriminals can produce remarkably accurate voice clones using readily available free and paid voice-cloning tools.

That, combined with personal information cybercriminals glean from the information we share in your social media accounts, allows them to craft elaborate schemes designed to exploit our emotional vulnerability to manipulate us into hastily sending money or divulging personal information before we realize it was all a scam.

How to Protect Yourself

To protect ourselves from AI voice cloning scams, it’s crucial to exercise caution and adopt proactive measures:

  1. Don’t trust the voice: If you get a call or message from someone who sounds like a distraught friend or family member in need of urgent financial assistance, resist the temptation to immediately engage, share sensitive information, or  send money. Instead, hang up and then text or call the person who supposedly contacted you, using the number you know to be theirs, to verify whether they actually are in trouble. Keep in mind that the cybercriminal posing as your loved one might suggest they don’t have their phone, like in my client’s case. Call or text anyway.
  2. Don’t be fooled by spoofed numbers: Cybercriminals often spoof phone numbers to make them appear legitimate. So don’t let the fact the fact that the number appears to be valid stop you from hanging up and texting or calling back.
  3. Establish a verbal codeword: Setting a verbal codeword with family members can be an effective measure to confirm the caller’s identity and thwart impersonation attempts. This is especially important for elderly family members who are often targeted by cybercriminals.

In response to escalating complaints of AI impersonation scams, the FTC has proposed new protections, which you can read by clicking on the link.

If you’ve been the target of a scam, take the time to report it to the FTC at and to your state attorney general.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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