Fraudsters fake voices for virtual kidnapping

Fraudsters fake voices for virtual kidnapping

Calling from an unknown number and demanding a ransom for a loved one is not a new method of fraud. However, due to the development of artificial intelligence and the ability to copy voices, this scheme is becoming more popular, and fraudsters are able to make even close family members believe in a fake kidnapping.

To help recognize scams, experts from ESET have prepared a list of the main stages of a typical virtual kidnapping fraud, as well as tips for preventing it.

Virtual kidnapping: how do fraudsters convince victims?

First, the fraudsters research potential victims whom they can call and try to lure money. In addition, the criminals are looking for a person to allegedly kidnap, including a child or other close person of the victim. For this purpose, fraudsters use social networks or other publicly available information.

Scammers create an imaginary scenario, trying to make it as scary as possible for the victim they are going to call. The more frightened the victim is, the less likely they are to make rational decisions, which is what the scammers are counting on.

After that, the scammers may conduct additional research to choose the best time to call to make sure that the victim’s loved one is not around, for example, on vacation. For this purpose, scammers use available information on the Internet.

Then, the fraudsters create audio dupes and make a call. With the help of special software, the attackers create audio with the voice of the allegedly kidnapped person to try to convince the victim that a loved one has been kidnapped.

They may also use other information obtained from social media to make the scam more convincing, such as details from the kidnapped person’s life that strangers supposedly cannot know. It is worth noting that fraudsters often ask for ransom payments in a way that is difficult to trace, such as cryptocurrency.

The biggest concern is the capabilities of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools, which can make virtual kidnapping even more convincing. Artificial intelligence can help fraudsters search for users in a specific geographic area, with publicly available social media profiles, and a certain socioeconomic status. Additionally, attackers can carry out SIM swapping fraud to steal a phone number to make a call more realistic.

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How to protect yourself from virtual kidnapping fraud?

To avoid becoming a victim of such scams, you should be aware of possible schemes and their main signs, and follow the following recommendations.

  • Do not share personal information on social media. Avoid posting information such as addresses and phone numbers. Whenever possible, do not share photos, videos, or audio of yourself or your loved ones, and do not share personal information such as vacation plans.
  • Make your social media profiles private to minimize the likelihood of people finding you online.
  • Be wary of suspicious messages that may be phishing and trick you into providing sensitive personal information or social media credentials.
  • Consider using geolocation trackers for your loved ones, such as Find My iPhone.
  • If you receive a suspicious call about the kidnapping of a loved one, try to call them from another phone or find another way to contact them and make sure they are safe.
  • During the call, do not give out any personal information and, if possible, ask about something that only the kidnapped person knows and ask to speak to him or her.
    Report the incident to the police as soon as possible.


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