Don’t trust that voice: Pierce County deputies warn of scam calls that sound like your family member

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — A phone call that appears to be from a loved one in trouble may not be what it seems.

Scammers can use AI — or artificial intelligence — to clone the voice of a friend or family member and then use that voice in a phone call to trick someone into sending money for a phony family emergency, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said.

But how does someone clone that trusted voice? Only a voice-cloning program and a short audio clip of your loved one’s voice are needed.

The audio could be found in online content like Facebook videos, for instance. So when you get a call from the trickster, they will sound just like a voice you trust.

While there’s no way to tell if the person on the phone is a fraud or the real thing, you can contact the person who supposedly called you to check their story. But be sure to call them at a number that you know is theirs.

If you can’t reach them, try to contact them through another family member or one of their friends, authorities say.

Another sign of a possible scam is if the caller asks you to wire money, send cryptocurrency, or buy gift cards and give them the card numbers and PINs to pay for the fake emergency.

A Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy said she recently took a call from someone who was scammed in this manner.

The sheriff’s department is encouraging people to share this information.

Anyone who spots a scam is asked to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.