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Senior Scams – Voice Cloning

By Susan I. Jean – June 26, 2023

I met with a client recently who shared with me a very scary story.  Some details have been changed, but the substance of her situation is as follows:

Her grandson called her.  He had been arrested and needed $15,000 for bail.  It had to be cash because the bail bondsman would only accept cash.  And the Court had imposed a “gag order” so that she couldn’t talk to the family about it.  The phone was then passed to the bondsman, who said that she was to put the cash in a tote, and a representative of the bondsman would come to pick it up at her house.  And that, because no one wants their neighbors gossiping about them, the bondman would not park near the house.

She went to her bank.  The banker was concerned and tried to talk her out of it; but this was for her grandson, she had talked with her grandson, and she went ahead, and withdrew the money.  The bail bondsman came to the door wearing a cap and a hoodie and so was not identifiable by the camera. She handed the money off to “the bail bondsman”.

Two days later, another call from her grandson.  The attorney needed to be paid to represent him at the hearing.  Another $25,000 in cash was required.  Basically the same as before. Again her financial folks tried to talk her out of it, but this was for her grandson, she had talked to her grandson, so she went ahead.

A couple of weeks later she asked her grandson how the hearing had gone.  Imagine her shock when (yes, as you suspected) her grandson knew nothing about it.

This is an intelligent person, not particularly gullible.  She confirmed that it was her grandson’s voice and that in their conversation her grandson responded to her questions.

Criminals are using sophisticated voice cloning technology to scam unsuspecting folks.  With very little information they can duplicate a voice, and make the voice say whatever they want.  And unfortunately, as long as the scam works, the criminals will continue using these strategies.

Tips If You Think You’re Being Scammed

The FTC has some tips if you get a phone call from a loved one asking for money.

  • You should call the person back using a phone number you know is theirs.
  • If you can’t reach your loved one, try to get in touch with them through another family member or their friends.
  • Any reputable firm will generally never require cash payments. A demand for cash only should be a clear warning that something may be wrong.

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