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NY Post
New York Post
30 Sep 2023


NextImg:Scammers use AI to beg NYC parents for $15K by mimicking their child’s voice

A twisted new phone scam where thieves use artificial intelligence to simulate a desperate child begging their parent for help is now hitting New York City, The Post has learned.

An Upper West Side mom told The Post she picked up the phone last week to what she thought was her 14-year-old daughter’s voice screaming and crying, “Mommy, I just got arrested. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

The mom was then transferred to a “police officer,” who spun an elaborate tale about how the girl was busted for driving underaged, rear-ending a pregnant woman’s car, and sending the “victim” to the hospital.

The mom needed to hand deliver $15,500 in cash to Manhattan Central Booking to bail her daughter out.

She went to the bank to withdraw the cash and was ready to go downtown when her daughter — who was really in school taking a chemistry exam — finally picked up her phone to let her know she was safe.

A twisted new phone scam where thieves use AI to simulate a desperate child begging their parent for help is hitting the Big Apple.
terovesalainen – stock.adobe.com

Looking back, there were plenty of signs that should have alerted her of the fraud, the mom said.

“I’m aware it was really stupid – and I’m not a stupid person – but when you hear your child’s voice, screaming, crying, it just puts you on a different level,” the mom told The Post.

She called the NYPD’s 20th Precinct to report the frightening incident and an officer told her that someone who lives on the same block as her fell victim to the con artists and handed over the cash.

The Federal Trade Commission first warned of the AI phone scams in March and it has since been reported across the country.

Imposter scams were the number one scheme reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year and phone scams bilked the most money out of people.
fizkes – stock.adobe.com

Fraudsters can get clips of a person’s voice when they answer a spam phone call or from content posted on social media.

The clip is fed into a voice-cloning program and can be made to say anything.

Consumers were swindled out of nearly $8.8 billion last year — up 30% from the year before — through fraud schemes, which are now being enhanced with the use of AI, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Imposter scams were the most common form of fraud, with people losing the most money, $1,400 on average, over the phone.

Younger adults reported losing money more often than older adults but when older adults did lose money, they lost more, the FTC also found.

While phone scams have long targeted elderly people, the Federal Trade Commission found that younger adults reported losing money more often.
dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Upper West Side mom has been so freaked out that she has stopped posting on social media, and implemented a code word to be used among family members to prevent an incident like this from happening again, she said.

She said police told her there was no sense in filing a report. “I get what they’re saying,” she said.

“It would probably go nowhere. These are probably burner phones.”

But without reports being filed, authorities have little detail about the new trend.

Scam artists can use artificial intelligence to clone a person’s voice, using just a few seconds of them talking on social media.
AntonioDiaz – stock.adobe.com

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said it has not yet seen AI used in this way but has prosecuted other bail-related phone scams in the past.

“As technology continues to evolve, we want New Yorkers to know the D.A.’s Office takes these scams very seriously and we are here to help,” a spokesperson said.

“We urge you to call our Financial Frauds Bureau at 212-335-8900 to report any scams.”