AI is now used to imitate voices

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

A Canadian grandmother received a call that sounded like her grandson saying he was in jail and needed cash for bail. The woman and her husband wired CDN 3,000 ($3,300) to a scammer before discovering her grandson’s voice was fake. Your bank said another customer was scammed the same way, The Washington Post reported.

Merrilees said using AI to mimic the voice of victims’ families was “really scary”.

“All the more reason for the banks to step up their response,” she said.

After Merrilees responded to the message about a broken phone, it made sense that her daughter would be setting up a new phone and wouldn’t be able to speak while she was at work.

Merrilees was then asked to make some payments because they were urgent and could not be made without a bank transfer confirmation on the new phone. Merrilees made a first payment of $3,450, a second of $3,800, and a third of $4,350 – a total of $11,600.

“She got a golden retriever puppy and I thought obviously they have to pay for the dog because they’re picking him up next week,” Merrilees said.

After the third payment, Merrilees asked what it was for. When the answer was “new furniture,” Merrilees felt uneasy.

“I emailed her and she called her old number back and I felt physically ill,” Merrilees said. The bank said there was no guarantee it would get the money back as it transferred the money itself.

Labor pledged to tackle fraud at the election with tougher industry codes and the creation of a National Anti-Scams Centre.

The Consumer Action Law Center wants banks to be forced to pay compensation to fraud victims to give them more incentive to invest in fraud protection. “Banks have the resources and should significantly increase their investments in technology to prevent and deter fraudsters,” Tonkin said.

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

Text messages sent to fraud victim Nina Merrilees.

Finance Services Secretary Stephen Jones said he does not fully support forcing banks to compensate all victims of fraud as it could create a “honey pot for fraudsters”.

“Industry, including banks, should be held to very high standards when it comes to consumer fraud protection, and when those standards are not met, they should be held accountable,” his spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Banking Association said it was developing an industry-wide position on fraud-related customer losses. She said voice impersonation is an emerging example of how fraud types and methods were “rapidly evolving.”

“Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and scams are becoming more complex and all sectors have a role to play in combating this problem, including banks, telecoms, online shopping platforms and search engines,” she said. “Banks take into account the circumstances of each individual case – and cover losses depending on how the fraud was committed.”

A spokeswoman for Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission, which estimates Australians lost $4 billion to fraud last year, said her Scamwatch service has seen increasing sophistication in fraud and is “paying attention to the risks of AI”.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here. AI is now used to imitate voices

Brian Lowry

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