AI phone call scams: 12 crucial steps to safeguard yourself


In the age of advanced technology, the boundaries between reality and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly blurred. From voice-generated pop stars on TikTok to convincing impersonations of loved ones, AI has woven itself into our daily lives in unexpected ways. However, this technological marvel also has a dark side, as scammers are leveraging AI-powered voice technology to deceive unsuspecting victims. In this article, we delve into the world of AI phone call scams, exploring their methods and providing you with 12 essential tips to protect yourself from falling prey to these malicious schemes.

The Rise of AI Voice Scams

Imagine receiving a phone call from a voice that sounds uncannily like your boss, colleague, or loved one. You engage in conversation, unaware that you’re actually speaking to an AI-generated impersonation. This scenario has become all too common, with scammers employing AI technology to mimic human voices with startling accuracy.

One alarming case involved the CEO of a UK-based energy firm who unwittingly transferred €220,000 to scammers. He believed he was conversing with senior executives from the firm’s German parent company. The fraudsters had employed AI to replicate his boss’s subtle German accent and unique intonations. Such AI voice scams come in two primary forms: AI bots that approximate accents and intelligently respond to questions in real-time, and full-fledged voice spoofs, where scammers use real voice samples to impersonate individuals.

But it’s not just corporate leaders who are targeted. Nearly one in twelve Britons have fallen victim to cybercriminals impersonating loved ones using AI-generated voices, with a staggering 77% losing money as a result. Astonishingly, 95% of respondents couldn’t distinguish between a real voice and an AI-generated one, especially when combined with generative AI tools like ChatGPT.

Protecting Yourself from Voice-Spoofing Scams

In the face of this growing threat, vigilance and precautionary measures are your best defenses. Here are 12 essential tips to stay protected:

  1. Verify Requests: If you receive a suspicious call or voice message requesting sensitive information, take a moment to verify it. Contact the company through their official phone line or email to confirm the request’s legitimacy.
  2. Remain Sceptical of Unsolicited Calls: Rarely do reputable companies ask for sensitive information over the phone without prior consent. Be skeptical of unfamiliar numbers and use caller identification services to assess their legitimacy.
  3. Install Call Screening Apps: Some mobile phones offer call screening capabilities, or you can download apps that flag known scam numbers. Services like Stop Scams UK provide assistance if you suspect someone is attempting to trick you into a financial transaction during a voice call.
  4. Double Check URLs and Email Addresses: If directed to a URL or given an email address during a call, scrutinize them for legitimacy. Scammers often use slightly altered or fake addresses to deceive recipients.
  5. Be Wary of Urgency or Pressure Tactics: Scammers create urgency to rush your decisions. Take your time, independently verify information, and prioritize safety over haste.
  6. Don’t Share Personal Information: You’re not obliged to share personal information over the phone, especially if you didn’t initiate the contact. Explore alternative ways for organizations to obtain your information securely.
  7. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA for your important accounts to add an extra layer of security against unauthorized access.
  8. Use Strong and Unique Passwords: Avoid using the same password across multiple platforms. Employ a password manager to generate and store secure, complex passwords containing a mix of letters, symbols, and numbers.
  9. Update and Secure Devices: Keep your software and devices up-to-date with the latest security patches. Install reputable anti-virus and anti-malware software to protect against malware attacks that may compromise your phone number.
  10. Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about common scams and fraudster tactics. Educate family members, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to protect them from potential scams.
  11. Report Suspicious Activity: If you encounter a voice-spoofing scam, report it to relevant authorities like the National Cyber Security Centre or Action Fraud. Notify the impersonated company to prevent others from falling victim.
  12. Use Verified Contact Information: When in doubt, only use official websites or phone numbers provided by the organization. Avoid responding to unknown messages and, if required, call back on the official number to speak with a staff member.

As AI continues to advance, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and cautious. Trust your instincts, and if something doesn’t feel right, take steps to verify the authenticity of the request. In this digital age, protecting yourself from AI phone call scams is not just advisable—it’s essential.