Voice AI becomes an accessory to CEO fraud — FBI advice to just ‘pick up the phone’

Credit: ID 123628206 © Mast3r |

By now execs should be aware of the threat of email fraudsters impersonating them to instruct subordinates to wire funds to a scammer’s account. But now they also need to watch out for phone hustlers, aided by artificial intelligence that spoofs the voice of CEOs. 

Deepfake videos depicting politicians like Barack Obama saying things he never did have sparked concerns over their potential for messing with elections and causing social chaos. 

But one use of the same technology is simple fraud. And in recent years the most lucrative fraud targeting businesses is carried out by spoofing the email account of a CEO (or some other trusted or authoritative person) who instructs a subordinate, such as a financial controller, to wire funds to a fraudster’s account. It’s called business email compromise or BEC fraud and the FBI estimates it cost US businesses $1.3 billion in 2018 alone.

However, execs and financial controllers should be wary of phone calls too since commercially available AI software can allow criminals to reproduce audio that sounds convincingly like a specific individual.  

That’s exactly what happened to an unnamed German energy firm with operations in the UK, as reported by the Wall Street Journal last week