04/18/2023: Scam Update | Cartel & AI Voice Cloning
Scam Newsletter 2023.02
Cartel & Voice Cloning Scams
A. Cartel Scam – a friend’s family was recently victimized by this scam. Their family member received a text message from an unknown number. The text message contained very graphic images of individuals who appeared to have been beheaded or had limbs gruesomely amputated. Subsequent text messages threatened the recipient’s family members, BY NAME, with a similar fate if the recipient did not send a certain amount of money to a third individual (not the sender of the text messages). The money was to be sent using a P2P (Person to Person) payment app such as Zelle, Venmo, PayPal, etc. Additional messages contained menacing photos of masked individuals holding an assortment of weapons.
Receiving threatening messages and photos, along with names of family members – including children, could indeed be terrifying. And that’s what the scammer counts on. We would do anything; pay any amount; to keep our families safe.
Go to your favorite browser and look up ‘Cartel Death Threat Text Scam’, or do a similar search on YouTube to see news pieces about this threat.
So where do they find this family information? There are several sites – public and paid, where you can enter an individual’s name and download a plethora of personal information, including family members – do NOT underestimate the lengths someone will go to for a few hundred dollars.
***NOTE – I’m told some of the images are extremely gruesome and hard to look at – PLEASE don’t let those images sway you to do something you know you shouldn’t (respond, send money).
B. Voice Cloning – new AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making it easier for bad guys to clone the voices of family members. One recent account detailed how a mother received a call from an unknown number, and when she answered, in the background heard her 15-year-old daughter screaming and sobbing. The caller advised that they had taken her daughter captive and would do unimaginable things to her if the mother did not send money. The mother positively identified her daughter’s voice due to a very distinctive way that she cries – however, as friends began to be notified, one called the father – who had the daughter with him – safe and sound. Artificial Intelligence had cloned the daughter’s voice SO WELL that her OWN MOTHER WAS FOOLED.
Again, look up ‘voice cloning scam’, and you’ll find several references.
These seem to be more insidious take-offs on the grandparent scam (look up Grandparent Scam), in that new methods are being used to heighten the fear that the individual would have when receiving such a call or text, to the point that we might not think logically during those first few moments.
- Call a trusted friend – someone you know to be calm and thoughtful in stressful situations.
- Forward the text message to 7726 (Copy, paste, and forward)
- Block and report on your messaging app – FTC has instructions for both Android and iOS devices
- Share information about scams with friends and family
Mark Kesselring , SVP | Information Security Officer| Corporate Security Officer