SINISTER criminals are using AI voice-cloning tools to scam victims over phone calls – but there are some tricks to stay safe.

Cyber-experts have revealed two conversational tactics you can deploy to avoid being caught out.

If you receive a phone call from a loved one asking for money, ask the right questions first


If you receive a phone call from a loved one asking for money, ask the right questions firstCredit: Getty

Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, but it’s already being used by crooks to hoodwink innocent phone owners.

With AI, a voice can be cloned in just a few seconds – and then deployed to trick friends or family members into handing over cash.

“Imagine receiving a call from a loved one, only to discover it’s not them but a convincing replica created by voice cloning technology,” said McAfee’s Jasdev Dhaliwal.

He continued: “Voice cloning, also known as voice synthesis or voice mimicry, is a technology that allows individuals to replicate someone else’s voice with remarkable accuracy.

“While initially developed for benign purposes such as voice assistants and entertainment, it has also become a tool for malicious actors seeking to exploit unsuspecting victims.”

It can be very difficult to tell when a voice is being cloned convincingly.

But if you ask the right questions, you can massively increase your chances of avoiding being scammed.

Trick #1 – Choose a Safe Word

First, you’ll want to establish a safe word with your loved ones.

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That way you can deploy it on a phone call by asking for the word.

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You should do this if you receive an out-of-the-blue call asking for money or sensitive info from a loved one.

If it seems a little odd, you may be the target of an AI voice-cloning scam.

But it’s unlikely that the criminals orchestrating the scheme would know your safe word, so that’s an easy way to immediately expose the crooks.

Trick #2 – Ask the right questions

Ask questions that only the real person would know the answer to

Jasdev DhaliwalDirector of Marketing and Security Evangelist at McAfee

Maybe the person on the other end of the line will say they’ve forgotten the safe word – but they still need your money.

If the call sounds like a loved one in distress, it might still be tempting to transfer cash.

That’s when a second tactic should be deployed: asking very personal questions.

“If you receive a call or message that raises suspicion, take steps to verify the caller’s identity,” Jasdev explained.

Artificial intelligence can quickly and convincingly clone a person's voice


Artificial intelligence can quickly and convincingly clone a person’s voiceCredit: Getty

“Ask questions that only the real person would know the answer to, such as details about past experiences or shared memories.

“Contact the person through an alternative means of communication to confirm their identity.”


You should also be very wary if someone is asking for you to send money using an unusual method.

Phone scam statistics

Americans are bombarded with three billion spam phone calls a month. What are the figures regarding the number of victims and the amount of money lost to fraudsters

  • In 2022, Americans lost some $39.5 billion to phone scams, with 68.4 million US citizens affected, according to TechReport.
  • The average phone scam victim lost $567.41 each in 2021, a major rise on the 2021 figure of $182 per victim, according to Hiya.
  • The majority of scams happen over the phone, with fraudsters twice as likely to call compared to text in 2021, as reports the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • In 2021, the US saw a 56% increase in spam phone calls with 60% of those being robocalls.
  • US residents experienced an average of 18 spam phone calls per month, although some experts believe the true figure may be as high as 31 per month.
  • Many phone calls from reputable businesses may be marked wrongly as spam, but 38% of companies have no idea whether they’re being marked as “potential fraud” or not, according to Hiya.
  • Never hand over any personal or financial information if you suspect a phone call is a scam. For instance, your bank will never ask you for such details in full over the phone. 
  • To cut down on spam phone calls and scams, sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers, by law, will need to check that list before they call you up.
  • Downloading third-party apps such as Hiya, Nomorobo, or Truecaller can help filter out annoying spam calls.
  • Try not to share your phone number unless you have to, especially online or with sketchy sources.

If a family member calls you suddenly asking for money via cryptocurrency or wire transfers, that could be a warning sign.

They may also say they need gift cards purchased, which is another red flag.

If a family member needs money urgently, why would their normal bank account not be appropriate? Be very careful when receiving any request for money, especially if the method is strange.


Also, make sure you report any AI voice-cloning scams to the authorities.

That way you can hopefully prevent the criminals from carrying out more attacks on other victims.

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