BBB: Voice-mimicking software could be used in scams

WAFB Liz Koh BBB scams
Updated: Sep. 8, 2019 at 3:12 PM CDT
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(WAFB) - As authorities investigate what could be the first case of scammers using voice-mimicking software for a major theft, the Better Business Bureau is sounding the alarm, hoping awareness will be enough to prevent other members of the public from becoming victims.

The BBB says software tools can take samples of a person’s speech and break them down into the individual tones and rhythm, which can then be used to make that person’s voice say whatever the scammer wants. And partially because the development and improvement of artificial intelligence requires gathering lots of data, companies have made these tools free and widely available for everyone, including scammers, the BBB says.

Such technology may have been used when scammers stole more than $240,000 when the managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday afternoon in March to wire the funds to an account in Hungary.

Business are highlighted as a target for this type of scam because business owners and CEOs who are frequently recorded talking in interviews or speeches will have more of this high quality data publicly available for criminals to use.

However, the BBB does note technology may reach a point where a scammer simply needs to keep someone on the line for a short phone call to record enough of their voice.

The best advice for combating these types of scams offered by the BBB includes building a culture where where instruction from anyone, including a CEO or authority figure, to pay a new account must be confirmed by calling that individual directly and confirming the instructions.

Scammers don’t just exploit technology; they exploit psychology, the BBB says. So, it’s important to note let yourself be overwhelmed, and thus less likely to notice key errors that can expose the scam.

“It’s the sense of urgency, fear, or excitement you feel when you are told the boss needs to wire money immediately, you’re going to be arrested for missing jury duty, or you just won a lottery you didn’t enter, that is at the core of most scams,” a BBB report states. “By making it both an organizational value and a personal practice to stop in these situations and ask what might really be going on, we can all protect ourselves not just from the scams we know about, but also the next ones criminals dream up.”

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