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voicemail scam
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Security & privacy

Why you need to change your voicemail setting right now

Stop saying hello when you answer the phone. That might seem silly, but that’s the advice the Federal Trade Commission is giving. Why? Phone scammers are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to sound just like you or your loved ones. 

You should change your voicemail, too, as even that short voice recording is enough for a scammer to steal it.

Wait, using my voicemail message?

It might sound like a ’90s film’s plot, but scammers steal people’s voices from their answering machines. As AI advances unlock exciting ways to use the new technology, they’re also enabling scammers like never before, and one of the ways they’re using it is to clone what you sound like.

Just a few seconds of you saying, “Hello? Is anyone there?” or “Hi, you’ve reached Jon! Please leave a message” is enough for a cybercriminal to train AI to sound exactly like you. That voice profile can then be used with classic scams targeting older family members and grieving relatives. It’s nasty stuff.

  • The quickest and easiest way to help avoid this is to delete any custom voicemail you have. The steps for doing so are slightly different for each device, but you can find the general steps in our guide here

The FTC has another piece of advice. Don’t say a word if you get a call from a number you don’t recognize. Wait for the caller to speak first to see if there’s a human there. If not, hang up — even if they talk and you think it’s a scam, hang up.

What if you’re targeted by a cloned voice?

Say you get a call from a relative who says they’re in trouble and need your help immediately. This scam relies on two things: panic and untraceable financial transactions. 

Scammers will often ask you to send cryptocurrency or gift cards so they can quickly get your money without any way for you to reclaim it. Similarly, all of it is done in a rush, so you don’t have time to think straight.

As a rule, don’t give anyone money over the phone. Think about whether the call feels legitimate. 

  • Pro tip: Hang up and call back the person they claim to be on a number you trust and recognize to confirm it’s them. 

Can’t get ahold of them on the phone? Try social media or ask a family member or friend if they have heard from them.

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