AI scammers clone social media users’ voices to demand money from their family

An AI needs just three seconds of a person’s voice to create a convincing duplicate – and scammers in the UK are already using the technology to con people into sending them money.

Figures from McAfee Labs say that almost a quarter of Brits say themselves or a friend have already been targeted.

A year or so ago, text or WhatApps from relatives apparently stranded abroad were the cutting edge of tech fraud.

READ MORE: Chilling AI scam cloned 'kidnapped' girl's voice in call to mum to demand ransom

The so-called “Hi Mum” WhatsApp messages resulted in reported losses of around £1.5 million in the UK over a four-month period last year. But now criminals are turning to increasingly sophisticated AI tools to swindle their victims.

Research by McAfee has found that voice-cloning tools are capable of replicating how a person speaks with up to 95% accuracy.

All they need is a sample of someone’s voice. And roughly half of us share a recording of our voice online at least once a week.

McAfee’s research reveals scammers are using AI technology to clone voices and then send a fake voicemail to or call the victim’s contacts pretending to be in distress.

Around 65% of adults said they weren’t confident that they could identify the cloned version from the real thing, so it’s no surprise that this technique is gaining momentum.

The easiest way to protect yourself from these scammers is to prepare a question or key word in advance with your close relatives so it’s easy to identify them.

One of the people surveyed, Joaquin, said: “I’ve had this call twice this past year. It frightened the hell out of me. I asked a few questions. They didn’t want me to tell grandma, l asked when they last spoke to grandma, they said two weeks ago. Grandma has been deceased a few years.”

McAfee surveyed 7,054 people globally including 1,009 adults in the UK.

It found that almost a quarter of Brits report themselves or a friend have already experienced some kind of AI voice scam, with 1 in 12 targeted personally and 16% saying it happened to someone they know.

Nearly four in five victims confirmed they had lost money as a result.

The cost of falling for an AI voice scam can be significant, with 40% of people who’d lost money saying it had cost them over £1,000, while 6% were duped out of sums between £5,000 and £15,000.


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