Voice cloning technology may have been used in Pearland phone scam, expert says – Houston Chronicle

When John Bridges answered his phone last weekend, he heard a familiar voice.
The Pearland resident told KHOU that the crying voice of his daughter was asking for help on the other end of a phone call.
“I’ve had an accident, daddy. Help me,” Bridges recalled to the Houston TV station. Then a man’s voice took over the line, telling Bridges, “I’ve got your daughter. She’s in my car.”
The man instructed Bridges to stay on the phone, get cash, and drive to a grocery store without drawing any attention to himself. Bridges was terrified but complied.
Bridges told KHOU that he was about to wire money to Mexico when his wife got a call from his actual daughter, telling them she was fine. They then called the authorities, who told them that the phone number was generated on the internet and that the enitre ordeal was a scam. 
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An expert says that the scam could have been created by finding a target’s voice in a video posted online and then using a program to clone the voice, according to KHOU. In early 2020, the Federal Trade Commission examined voice cloning technology, claiming that text-to-speech synthesis has allowed researchers to create a near-perfect voice clone with less than a five-second recording of a person’s voice.
Although voice cloning technology is being used in the film and healthcare industry, it’s been used for nefarious purposes in the past. Fraudsters cloned a company director’s voice in a $35 million bank heist in 2020, according to Forbes.
“It was her… It was her voice. I know it was,” Bridges told KHOU. “I still can’t really sleep at night… I still think about it.”
ryan.nickerson@hcnonline.com
Ryan Nickerson is a digital reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

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