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Longwood Police warn of “grandparent scammers” that clone family members’ voices

LONGWOOD, Fla. — Grandparents often have a tough time saying no to their grandkids - and scammers know it.

The “Grandparent Scam” has been around for decades, but now, scammers are getting more sophisticated and brazen.

Detectives are seeing it in Central Florida.

Longwood Police say just in the last week, they’ve seen two elderly people have fallen victim to the scam.

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One of them is out roughly $30,000.

Channel 9 spoke to the two victims over the phone. We’re not identifying them to protect their identity.

Both victims said the scammers quickly created a sense of urgency and fear to pressure them into losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars to allegedly help a family member.

“The lawyer calls and says that our grandson and been in a car wreck, and he’s okay, he’s in jail. But the person he hit was a woman who was six months pregnant, and she’s in the hospital. And we don’t know if she’s going to lose the baby or not,” said one of the victims.

That’s how the classic scam often starts like this. In that case, the victim lost $1,000.

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But now, scammers are getting even more advanced--pulling in artificial intelligence to clone a child or grandchild’s voice to fool seniors.

The other victim, who lost roughly $30,000, said the scammers’ voice sounded almost identical to his son’s.

In that case, the scammer, acting as his son, said he was in a car accident, had injured another driver, and was in jail in Volusia County. Scammers also posed as a lawyer, bondsman, and judge on the call, he said.

So how are the scammers able to clone a family member’s voice?

Detective Mathew Rice says, in some cases, scammers are calling the victim’s family members to do it.

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“They’re asking people yes or no questions just to get a recording or a clip of that person’s voice. And then they’re using them to further scams later with like family members,” Rice said.

From there, Rice says the scammers mine family members’ social media - finding out who they are, their interests, and recent activities like vacations. Then, scammers create a storyline based on social media to prey on the victim’s fears.

Investigators said scammers have gotten even more brazen in the request - asking victims to leave an envelope of cash on their front steps and picking it up in person.

It happened in the case where the victim lost roughly $30,000.

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In that case, Rice says a “third party of the scammer” used a rideshare service like Uber to get to the home and pick up the cash.

“It seems like they’re local, especially since they named a local law enforcement agency, they had a rideshare service, come pick up the cash, I don’t think that a rideshare person is going to go deposit that money into a bank account for the fraudster, I think that they’re just going to go deliver it to him,” Rice said.

Rice said to be skeptical. Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know and remember that no officer will call a family member and demand a bond be paid over the phone.

If a caller claims a family member has been arrested, Rice says you can call Longwood Police or your local law enforcement agency to verify.

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