I am sure by now all of you are familiar with the grandparent scam where a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild who has gotten into some trouble, most commonly a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical problems in a far away place. The caller pleads for the grandparent to send money immediately to help resolve the problem. However the caller also begs the grandparent not to tell mom and dad. One would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this scam, but don’t be so hard on the victims of this scam. Scam artists have a knowledge of psychology of which Freud would have been envious and are able to use that knowledge to persuade their victims to send money right away. While this scam has been going on for approximately fourteen years, it continues to victimize people.
But now it is getting worse – far worse.
Through the use of readily available AI voice cloning technology, a scammer can obtain a recording of the grandchild’s voice from YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook or anywhere else the grandchild might post a video with audio and use that audio to create a call to the grandparent that sounds exactly like that of the grandchild and all it takes is AI voice-generating software and as little as 30 seconds worth of the grandchild’s audio. Recently, Ruth Card of Regina, Saskatchewan was swindled out of 3,000 Canadian dollars by a scammer who used AI voice cloning technology to make a call to Mrs. Card that appeared to come from her grandson, Brandon in which it sounded like Brandon was in jail and needed the money immediately for bail.
Scammers often use the nicknames of the grandchildren when speaking to their intended victims. Sometimes they get this information from social media while in other instances they get this information from reading obituaries which may contain the names of grandchildren so merely because the correct name is used in the call is no reason to believe the call. Don’t respond immediately to such a call without calling the real grandchild on his or her cell phone or call the parents and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild. If a medical problem is the ruse used, you can call the real hospital. If legal problems are the hook you can call the real police. You can also test the caller with a question that could be answered only by the real grandchild, but make sure that it really is a question that only the real grandchild could answer and not just anyone who might read the real grandchild’ s social media postings. Prudent families can also come up with a code word to use in an emergency which a scammer will never know.
Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam. Once you have wired money, it is gone forever. Also, students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.
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