Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

BELOIT — The rush of artificial intelligence technology news over the past year has most people confused, and governments are rushing to try to figure out how they can regulate it.

But one group appears to be incorporating AI quite easily in their day-to-day work flow — scammers.

The city of Beloit in southern Wisconsin is the latest to report a resident was scammed using artificial intelligence voice cloning.

Police there say the scammers used a family member’s voice to say they needed money – either because they’re in jail or have been kidnapped.

Scams like this are spreading throughout the country, and these calls can be terrifying, experts say.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer alert in March warning about the growing prevalence of these types of scams.

According to federal officials, the scam typically begins with a phone call saying your family member is being held captive.

The caller may use a clone of your family member’s voice to say they have been kidnapped. Another variant of the fraud has a family member being held because he/she caused an auto accident, is injured and won’t be allowed to go to the hospital until damages are paid.

To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:

* Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
* Calls do not come from the alleged kidnapped victim’s phone.
* Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone.
* Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim.
* Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.

If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

* Try to slow the situation down.

* Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if he/she speaks.

* Attempt to call, text, or contact the alleged victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.

* While staying on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.

* To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing. down the demand, or tell the caller you need additional time to meet their demands.

* Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.

* Request the alleged kidnapper allow the victim to call you back from his/her cell phone.

* At the earliest opportunity, notify your local police department.