- A sophisticated AI scam has surfaced in Pierce County, where criminals are using artificial intelligence to clone voices of family members, convincingly portraying them in distress situations to extract money.
- Law enforcement and the affected families urge residents to have a safety plan, including secret questions or personalized information, as traditional tracking and passwords may not be sufficient in these scenarios.
PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — A new and alarming form of scam is causing panic in Pierce County, Washington. Criminals are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic the voices of loved ones, leading unsuspecting victims into believing their family members are in grave danger, all in an attempt to swindle money.
The scam involves criminals using AI to clone voices from online videos for fraudulent calls. A South Sound family recounted their harrowing experience when they received a call from someone imitating their daughter, claiming she had been in a car accident.
According to a report from Kiro7, a couple, Heidi and Robert (last names withheld for privacy reasons), referred to a phone call they received as “20 minutes of hell.” The call, which they received on a Monday afternoon, led them to believe that their 16-year-old daughter was in distress following a car accident at Walmart. The voice on the other end was so convincing that Robert stated it was “unmistakably hers.”
The caller, posing as their daughter, was crying and pleading for help before passing the phone over to a man who issued threats and demanded a ransom of $10,000. He claimed to have their daughter and threatened to harm her if they did not comply with his demands. This sparked a race against time, with Robert speeding to the supposed accident scene while simultaneously on the line with 911.
While Robert searched in vain for his daughter at the parking lot, Heidi was preparing to meet the scammer’s demand. However, when the scammer changed his request from cash to a wire transfer, Heidi grew suspicious. She was able to reach her daughter through text, confirming that she was safe at school, and promptly ended the call with the scammer.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has issued a warning about these sophisticated scams using AI. Deputy Carly Cappetto cautioned, “This is a new scam that’s out. This is going to be affecting other people if they’re not familiar with this artificial intelligence. People can take a loved one’s voice and create it into something that it’s not.”
The department is advising families to devise safety features, such as secret questions or password systems, to confirm the identity of family members during unexpected calls. Despite such safeguards, Heidi highlighted the emotional toll of the scam, stating, “When you hear your child’s voice, you don’t question.”
Investigators believe that scammers are extracting voices from social media videos and using AI apps to duplicate them. Multiple cases have already been reported in Western Washington. The public is urged to report any similar scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.