Voice-changing AI used in Norfolk emergency scam, police say

The call comes in from someone claiming to be a relative asking for money to cover sudden medical bills or, in the case of a recent alleged fraud in Norfolk County, pay a fictitious “bail bondsman” to get out of police custody after a supposed car accident.

The so-called “emergency scam” works because the victim believes their loved one is on the line and needs urgent help.

Now artificial intelligence is making that scam even more effective, police say.

According to Norfolk County OPP, a Norfolk resident lost $9,150 to an emergency scam earlier this week.

After getting a call purporting to be from a relative in police custody, the panicked victim brought the cash to a Norfolk address to give it to the would-be bail bondsman, a position that does not exist in Canada.

Only after the money changed hands did the victim call the relative in question and learn there had been no accident.

“Police believe the fraudster may have exploited artificial intelligence (AI) voice-changing technology to deceive the victim,” Const. Andrew Gamble of the OPP said in an email.

Gamble told The Spectator police suspect AI was involved due to the fraudster providing “very specific information during the scam” and using a “near-perfect imitation of the family member’s voice.”

“These factors suggest the use of advanced technology, including AI voice-changers, capable of replicating specific vocal patterns with high accuracy,” Gamble said.

The alleged fraud “underscores the importance of cybersecurity and protecting personal information from potential misuse,” Gamble added.

“Members of the public are urged to verify the identity of any caller requesting money, especially in urgent or unusual circumstances.”

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator