In an alarming trend, phone scammers employ artificial intelligence (AI) to orchestrate sophisticated frauds. They utilize realistic facsimiles of individuals’ voices to trick unsuspecting victims into parting with their hard-earned money. By harnessing AI technology, scammers can manipulate existing voice recordings found on social media platforms to create dynamic versions of the voice, which are then used to read scripts and execute convincing frauds. These malicious actors mainly target vulnerable seniors, and when coupled with phone “spoofing” techniques that falsify caller ID information to appear as a familiar and trusted phone number, these scams become incredibly deceptive and difficult to identify.

Katie Shilton, an associate professor of information science at the University of Maryland, emphasizes that raising awareness is crucial in combating this growing form of criminal activity. Shilton advises individuals to exercise caution and skepticism when confronted with frantic and threatening phone calls. “One of the best countermeasures right now is to try to call the person back on their number,” she suggests. By verifying the caller’s legitimacy through a callback, potential victims can mitigate the risk of falling prey to these increasingly convincing scams.

Moreover, scammers can also exploit phone spoofing to mimic the phone numbers of government agencies or reputable organizations, further enhancing their deception. The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers may even employ intermediaries who pose as authority figures, such as fake lawyers or police officers, to add an additional layer of credibility to their fraudulent schemes.

To ensure that victims face significant challenges in recovering their funds, scammers often coerce them into making payments through methods that are notoriously difficult to trace. These methods include wire transfers, purchasing gift cards and divulging the card number and PIN, or even demanding cryptocurrency payments. Individuals who encounter such scams are encouraged to report them to the Federal Trade Commission via

Interestingly, the AI technology utilized by scammers was initially developed for beneficial purposes. According to Shilton, AI-powered phone scams stem from a particular form of AI development intended for prosocial applications. Initially, voice-mimicking technologies were primarily used in artistic and film projects and in developing voice assistants for enhanced accessibility and business purposes.

The National Science Foundation has established the Trustworthy A.I. in Law and Society institute to combat the detrimental consequences of AI-enabled scams. This collaborative endeavor between the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and Morgan State University aims to devise mechanisms that ensure the trustworthiness of AI through both technological advancements and public policy responses.

One area of innovation that researchers are exploring involves the concept of watermarking AI output. By embedding unique identifiers within the AI-generated content, it becomes possible to trace and authenticate the origin of voice clones, thus enhancing accountability and detecting fraudulent activities.

As phone scammers continue to exploit AI technology to carry out their nefarious deeds, individuals must remain vigilant and skeptical when receiving unexpected calls. By promoting awareness, adopting countermeasures such as callback verification, and promptly reporting scams, the public can play an active role in mitigating the impact of these AI-enabled frauds.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply