MANCHESTER, Mo. – A sophisticated scam involving voice cloning is targeting St. Louisans, but the alleged thief is showing up at the victim’s front door to collect money.
In this particular case, Carol, whose last name FOX 2 has decided not to publish, received a call in July.
“The first thing was the phone call,” she said.
Carol was told her grandson, Jaydon, was in need of help. Her heart of gold didn’t hesitate.
“He said, ‘I have something to tell you, but I don’t want my mom to know.’ I said, what is it? He said, ‘Well, I was in an accident on Manchester and the woman got hurt,’” Carol said.
Carol said an attorney started to talk. The voice claimed Jaydon had been arrested by Ballwin Police, that a judge issued an $8,450 cash-only bond, and that the lawyer could send a bondsman by to coordinate payment.
“He said, ‘I know several, but I want to find one relatively close to your home.’ So, he said if you can go outside, the guy will be coming by. Well, this guy did come by,” Carol said.
A Ring doorbell spotted the alleged bondsman going into the neighborhood driving a black Chrysler 300.
“I was trying to do everything the lawyer told me to do,” Carol said. “I said to the guy, this feels like a scam. He said, ‘It can’t be, you just talked to Jaydon.’”
Carol handed the so-called bondsman cash, but there’s one problem.
“I just truly believed it was Jaydon on the phone,” Carol said.
Jaydon was actually safe and sound at home.
Investigators are unable to confirm if artificial intelligence, or AI, cloned her grandson’s voice, but the detective told her it’s likely.
“It’s the AI part that scares me. That they would get his voice and create something they want him to say. It just didn’t occur to me,” she said.
The FOX Files has covered voice cloning extensively. The technology only needs a few seconds of someone speaking to manipulate the voice to say anything.
Transaction Network Services Chief Data Officer Greg Bohl said this type of scam is on the rise.
“They’ll take a recording, possibly off your voicemail and make it sound like this relative of yours,” Bohl said. “They’ll say help me, or they’ll be crying or something like that.”
This type of scam is at the center of a Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert.
Bohl recommends confirming the identity of your loved one, or call the person back to verify what you’re being told.
“A safe word if your family knows that or some detail that only your family knows therefore the scammer won’t know how to respond to that,” Bohl said.
Manchester Police received the doorbell video to identify the alleged scammer and used a nearby license plate reader to track the self-proclaimed bondsman down.
Court records reveal the Chrysler 300 had been rented from a car rental business in Oklahoma.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a man who lives in Florida.
“If they can make the voice be [Jaydon], it’s amazing. I don’t know where they got him to use,” Carol said.
Carol said at this point, it’s not about the money. She just feels embarrassed.
“I wouldn’t be the type to do something like this, but I guess, this is why they go after grandmothers,” she said.
Detectives said they received a few similar cases in recent months.
The man has no known ties to St. Louis but will be extradited back to Missouri when he’s arrested, according to investigators. He will face a felony stealing charge.