A Harris County couple said phone scammers copied their son’s voice and convinced them to hand over $5,000 in cash. They even came to pick him up in person.
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas. A Houston couple lost $5,000 after they claimed they were scammed into believing their son was in an accident.
They said it happened quickly – in less than two hours.
When the phone rang last Wednesday, Fred and Cathy were sure their son was in trouble. The voice on the other end of the line told them they needed $5,000.
The couple asked KHOU 11 News not to use their last names to hide their identity.
Fred said the man told him and his wife that they had an accident and injured another person.
“I could have sworn I was talking to my son. We had a conversation,” Kathy said.
Authorities said they believe the scammers used artificial intelligence to clone their son’s voice.
Fred and Cathy were convinced. The man on the phone convinced them that their son would be charged with driving under the influence and that he was in the county jail. The parents were tricked into believing their son had just left the hospital with a broken nose, stitches and a high-profile lawsuit looming.
“You mess with my kids. I will do anything for my children,” Katie said.
The story became more and more detailed.
“This is a serious situation. He hit a woman who was six months pregnant,” Cathy told her. “It was supposed to be a big deal and she really lost the baby.”
She even postponed her cancer treatment appointment to try and deal with the situation. At first they were told they needed $15,000 to help their son out, but this was eventually reduced to $5,000. The scammers assured that in order to get their son out of prison faster, they themselves would come for the money.
According to experts, scammers use artificial intelligence technology to imitate the voice.
“They don’t really need as much as you think,” said Eric Devlin of Lone Star Forensics. “They can get it from different sources – from Facebook, from public videos, from Instagram, from whatever you post.”
The couple said that after they handed over the money, they realized it was a scam. We called our son, who was at work all the time. Now they are sharing their story because they don’t want anyone else to become a victim.
“I mean, we put together $5,000, but the next person could give them the last dime they have,” Cathy said.
So how do you avoid becoming a victim? Experts said it would be wise to check everything. If the caller tells you that your child is in the hospital, hang up and call the hospital yourself.
Harris County Constable Office 4 is investigating the incident.
Similar scams have surfaced in the Austin area.
Grace White on social networks: Facebook | Twitter