According to reports, an unidentified scammer was able to convince the CEO of an unnamed UK power company that he was on the phone with the CEO of their parent company in Germany. Voice asked that the CEO immediately transfer €220,000 ($243,000) to the Hungarian supplier’s account to avoid “late-paying fines”, which the CEO went on to say. The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the first time a crime has been committed using a voice produced by artificial intelligence (AI).
The scandal was unveiled this week in March of this year with the company’s insurance company Euler Hermes. Scammers have sent financial statements via email. Of course, transfer scammers have to go, on the phone though. “The software was able to mimic the voice, Antje Wolters, a spokeswoman for Euler Hermes, told the Washington Post.” And not just the voice: tonality, punctuation, German pronunciation.”
“Johannes’ demanded to talk to me when I was on the phone with the real Johannes!” The CEO said in an email showing the Washington Post. The scandal was soon uncovered after the thieves became greedy and phoned the CEO to demand more money. The CEO became suspicious when the scammers demanded a second payment and decided to call the chief executive of their parent company directly, who picked up the phone.
Money that had already been remitted had not been recovered, re-disclosed through accounts in Hungary and Mexico before being distributed elsewhere, and no suspects had been named or arrested. This type of technology, designed to mimic natural voice patterns, may have some great applications, in addition to nefarious uses, before you go into full Luddite and claim to destroy the technology. In a demo last year, for example, Google’s (AI) assistant was able to call a restaurant and a hairdresser and book a table and an appointment, never letting people on the other end of the line know they were talking to an algorithm.