The so-called “Grandparent Scam” is not new, but with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), scammers are adding a new twist that makes this scheme more convincing than ever.
Here’s how the scam works:
- A criminal gathers a few facts and personal information about a person, often from social media, then contacts that person’s grandparent.
- The scammer fabricates a story that the grandchild has been in an accident or is in some kind of legal or financial trouble and needs money right away.
- Then, they instruct the victim to mail cash to an address so they can take care of the grandchild.
But the truth is no one has been in an accident or is in any legal trouble. Everyone is safe, except for your money. It’s gone.
Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that scammers are adding a devious new angle — using AI voice cloning software to mimic a grandchild’s voice (see fcc.gov/grandparent-scams-get-more-sophisticated). With only a short video clip pulled from social media, these programs can instantly copy any person’s voice. Worse, scammers often couple this tactic with a “spoofed” phone number that shows up on caller ID with the grandchild’s real name.
The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) recommends a few simple, common-sense steps to avoid being taken in by this extremely sophisticated scam:
- Be suspicious of any phone calls with urgent requests for money, even if it sounds like someone you know. Scammers believe that if they can get you worried about a loved one, you won’t take the time to think things through.
- If someone does ask for money immediately, tell the person to wait and that you’ll call them back. Before sending any money, verify the details of the story with that person or a trusted family member or friend.
- Be especially wary of late-night phone calls. Scammers like to call victims when they are not fully awake and thinking at their best. Don’t let them catch you napping!
Finally, if you believe you have been targeted by a Grandparent Scam, report it to the FTC at 888-225-5322 or go to consumercomplaints.fcc.gov. If you have been affected by a crime that involves the U.S. Mail®, contact USPIS at 877-876-2455 or report it online at uspis.gov/report.
— Communications, Governance, and Strategy,
U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 7-27-23