You’re probably familiar with how AI can be used to generate text. But did you know that AI can generate voices, too?

BBB and organizations like the Federal Trade Commission are warning consumers about a new type of scam: fake calls, voicemails and voice messages generated by AI.

Researchers at McAfee recently found that scammers need only three seconds of recorded audio of a person’s voice to replicate it using AI. They can then send AI-generated calls, voicemails or voice messages to people, usually with the aim of getting money.

In a higher-tech version of the “emergency scam” or “grandparent scam,” the fake messages usually impersonate a friend or family member and say they’re in trouble and need money right away. The familiar voice makes these scams convincing.

While the rise of AI has been swift and data on fake voice messages is still emerging, McAfee surveyed 7,000 people and found that 1⁄4 had experienced an AI voice message scam or knew someone who had.

Scammers’ methods evolve along with technology. Going forward, AI may make it more difficult to tell if a message is fake – but not impossible.

BBB’s tips for spotting and preventing AI voice messages:

Double check the source. If you get an unusual, urgent or emotional voice message, call the person you think it is directly (or have someone else call them) to double check if it was them. Check the caller ID on voicemails, but remember that caller ID can be spoofed.

Stop and think before you react. If you’re scared or taken off guard, you may be less likely to notice the details of a scam call. Pause a second and try to remain calm. Does the message really sound like the person you think it is?

Have a “safe word” for calls. Pick a unique word for you and your family to use on the phone if you’re in trouble. Keep this word private. If you receive an urgent phone call that seems to be from a family member and they don’t use the word, hang up and call them directly.

Trust your gut. BBB’s 2022 ScamTrackerSM Risk Report found that nearly 3⁄4 of people who avoided losing money in a scam had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. If you receive a strange call or voicemail, ask a friend or loved one for a second opinion, or check for information about common scams.

Reduce solicitations. Registering all unsolicited phone numbers on the “Do Not Call” registry may help reduce the chance that scammers will call your phone number in the first place. You may wish to change your phone number if you frequently receive spam calls.

Limit where you post your voice online. Remember that very little audio is needed to imitate a person’s voice with AI. It’s easy for scammers to find audio on the internet. You may want to consider limiting where you share audio of your voice publicly or setting your social media profiles to private.