Generative AI can mimic the voice of someone you know and communicate in real time.  This is called an interactive voice response (IVR) and it’s used in a type of spam called voice phishing or ‘vishing.’ (Source: Adobe Stock)

Generative AI Can Use Your Own Voice Against You in ‘Vishing’ Scams

It seems as though every day we are amazed at the latest combination of AI with another product or service. And it appears that AI improves products and services to a great degree.  Every week, researches stories of the incredible paradigm shift AI has made in technology, often positive, but sometimes troubling.

Robocalling on Steroids

We all have been annoyed with phone calls from unknown sources. Usually, they’re trying to sell something we don’t want. These are known as robocalls. An article from touches on these and other telephone problems AI is being associated with. Robocalls about your car’s warranty are one thing. But now with bad guys using AI, your voice can be recorded and then altered to create a deep fake piece of audio.

The phone system was built on trust, said Jonathan Nelson, director of product management at telephony analytics and software company Hiya Inc.

“We used to be able to assume that if your phone rang, there was a physical copper wire that we could follow all the way between those two points, and that disappeared. But the trust that it implied didn’t.”

Now, the only call that you can trust is the one that individuals initiate. But with a quarter of all non-contact calls reported as spam — meaning fraudulent or simply a nuisance — according to Hiya’s Global Call Threat Report for Q2 2023, that’s a lot of verification.

“A report on AI and cybersecurity from digital security company McAfee says that 52% of Americans share their voice online, which gives scammers the main ingredient for creating a digitally generated version of your voice to victimize people you know. This is called an interactive voice response (IVR) and it’s used in a type of spam called voice phishing or ‘vishing.'”

Spotting AI Scams

While it’s difficult, it’s not impossible to be protected from and to be able to spot AI-generated scams. Companies like McAfee and Hiya use technology to spot AI scam patterns (such as historical call patterns that function similarly to credit history for phone numbers) and find ways to obstruct them.

“Despite the fact that the U.S. federal government spearheaded the IRS scam investigation (refer to the 2023 podcast Chameleon: Scam Likely for an inhalable deep dive into the logistics of the investigation), its response to AI technology’s augmentation of robocalling is disorganized, one expert says.”

With AI technology mimicking the voices of acquaintances, friends, or family, the game becomes more ingrained in the psyche. Chameleon said it’s more about “achievement, adrenaline, and power,” as much as money.

But while education on this ever-evolving threat makes its rounds, technology helps to fight back.