Police Warn Of Kidnapping Scam Using AI Technology


The Grant County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about a newer kind of phone scam that’s making the rounds.

The scam is known as ‘virtual kidnapping’ and involves a criminal attempt to extort money from victims by convincing them that a loved one has been kidnapped and they must pay a ransom to ensure their safe return.

Sheriff’s spokesperson, Kyle Foreman, says some of the scams are sophisticated enough to involve the use of artificial intelligence technologies.

“The caller may use artificial intelligence to replicate the voice of the loved one. That way, if you ask to speak to your loved one, it might be an artificial intelligence-generated clone of the person’s voice. So people receiving these calls need to be aware of that.”

Police are recommending anyone who gets a virtual kidnapping call should also limit the amount of time they spend on the phone with the scammer to avoid having their own voice used in such a way.

Foreman adds something else to keep in mind is that although kidnappings are occasionally perpetrated, they are extremely rare and unlikely to happen to someone you know.

“Actual kidnappings are very rare nationwide. Most are usually the result of someone trying to extort money from someone else. They’re hard to perpetrate and it’s difficult to hold someone captive for ransom. It’s also very difficult nowadays for victims to be able to transfer much money to a kidnapper.”

Foreman says anyone who receives a call demanding a ransom to free someone they love from a kidnapping should never give any personally-identifying information, such as their name or location, or the name and location of anyone they know.

The sheriff’s office says most of the virtual kidnapping calls that have been reported to their agency appear to be coming from the Spokane area, however Foreman says the phone numbers being used are likely spoofed, so it’s difficult to know from where the calls are originating.

He says anyone who receives a virtual kidnapping scam call or believes a real kidnapping has occurred should report it immediately to the FBI by calling 9-1-1.


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