Is that you, dear? Why seniors may be worse at detecting voice-generated AI — and the scams that use it.

Scientists suggest seniors may be less attuned to the emotion-free speak of AI. But what if it’s tied to our confusion over how younger humans speak?

Here’s my selected history of voice-generated AI scams in the last six months. If you’re a three-quarter lifer perhaps pay attention, since you’re the audio scamster’s ideal target. Not because you’re confused by new technology. Not because your open and generous nature makes you fork over thousands of dollars to strangers. And not even because — although this seems like the obvious answer — you don’t hear as well as you once did.

No. The problem with people over 60 listening to AI seems to be not what we hear, but how we hear, which changes as we age, according to scientists at Toronto’s Baycrest Centre. We concentrate to understand the words in a sentence, and miss the emotion attached to them. It may make us less attuned to the emotion-free speak of AI, goes the theory.

My own entirely unscientific theory is a bit different and has to do with our confusion not around how AI speaks but how younger humans speak. Before we get to explanations, here’s my selected history of voice-generated AI scams.

Back on March 8, centuries ago in Artificial Intelligence time, I watched CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan use an AI imitation of his voice to trick his parents in Ireland into thinking it was their real son. AI Donie flubbed O’Sullivan’s Irish accent, but Mom just thought he sounded a bit down and Dad chatted with AI Donie about the local football team. It was funny TV. But it boded darker things to come.

Later that same month, CBC News reported that seniors in St. John’s, N.L., were scammed out of $200,000 over three days by AI-generated voices imitating their grandchildren. A new grandparent, I suffered with them. (Although a scam call from AI Baby Stefan would go something like, “Car! Fish! Wow wow!”) The distress calls from the Newfoundland fake grandchildren, on the other hand, followed frightening and urgent scripts: they’d hit a pregnant woman, police found drugs in their car, they were in jail and needed money for a lawyer. Sometimes the AI grandchild implored their grandparent not to tell their parents.

As a woman who lost $58,000 said, “you’ll do anything for your grandchild.” Similar voice scams targeting seniors across Canada followed the same pattern. The Star reported an 81-year-old grandfather losing $100K, one of more than 50 victims in a Newmarket grandparent AI fraud, to a collective loss of almost $1 million. Seeing any of that money again is as likely as recovering a stolen bike in Toronto.

Source: Toronto Star

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