B.C. mother targeted by AI phone scam initially convinced it was her son

Click to play video: 'North Vancouver mother almost victimized by AI telephone scam'
North Vancouver mother almost victimized by AI telephone scam
A North Vancouver mother says she has more proof that artificial intelligence is giving telephone fraudsters a powerful new tool. Kylie Stanton reports, and shows us how quickly and easily free software can duplicate a voice – May 7, 2024

Just before noon on Monday, North Vancouver resident Annette Wilson Blair answered a call from a private number.

At first, all she could hear were cries and sobs but then a voice came through saying, “Mom, it’s me.”

Then Wilson Blair was told by someone she believed was her son that he was being arrested for driving under the influence.

“There was the crying and the sobbing that made it a little bit, a little bit doubtful,” she said. “But, frankly, I was convinced it was him.”

The call was then handed off to someone posing as a police officer.

But as this ‘officer’ started talking, Wilson Blair started to doubt what she was hearing.

“There was just a breakdown,” she said.

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“He didn’t say what detachment… and I thought, why is he phoning the mother of an adult male? This doesn’t make sense. And then my Block Watch training and all my experience came in and I thought, no.

“And I just said, you know, as the cop started talking to me, I said, this is a scam.”

That’s when the line went dead.

Click to play video: 'Canadians concerned about risk of AI generated fraud'
Canadians concerned about risk of AI generated fraud

Wilson Blair sent her son a quick text message asking if he had been arrested for drinking and driving and he responded saying “no.”

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“I was like, yeah, definitely a scam,” Alex Blair told Global News. “And then she just texted back. She said it was your voice on the phone, like you were in tears.”

Alex said he was stunned to hear how someone had artificially got his voice, connected it with his mom and then tried to extort her for money.

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“It wasn’t until I kind of got to work and mentioned it to a few coworkers that, they mentioned ‘oh, god, you know, if that happened to my parents, they would fall for that’.”

That’s why Alex said he wanted to speak out about what happened.

Social media expert Jesse Miller said scammers are going to use whatever tools are available to get into the pocketbooks of everyday people.

“This is an encroaching issue and is one that maybe unfortunately we need some negative stories to bring some more awareness to the issue.”

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Wilson Blair said she is grateful the call she received did not go any further, crediting her years of work with Block Watch, a crime prevention program, designed to keep neighbourhoods safer.

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“I think the fact that she heard my voice and that it was like in tears and there was a real sense of urgency and emotion added like a level of sort of, I guess triggered her a little bit,” Alex added.

“And, you know, fortunately, she was able to verify with me via text.”

He said the family has now come up with a code word so if there is anything of an urgent nature, that would be the way they could verify who the person was on the other end of the phone.

“I don’t know about you, but I find at this point in time, like whenever I get an email or a phone call, I’m almost assuming that it’s a scam,” he said.

Wilson Blair said she was surprised to think she was educated about these scams and she almost got taken.

“Nobody is immune,” she said.

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