While I was in Turks and Caicos, I kept getting notifications on social media to watch part of a senate hearing. It was the last thing I wanted to do while hanging out with my family in the sun so I waited until we returned home. RELATED: Don’t Fall For It: Scammers Are Pretending to be Customs and Border Protection Agents

After watching this six-minute clip (embedded below), I’m sorry I waited. Gary Schildhorn, an attorney from Philadelphia, told a Senate panel his story of an attempted scam against him where his son’s voice was spoofed by artificial intelligence. His story is a must-see so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones against this kind of scam. If you haven’t shared it already, please do. Watch the video or read the transcript below:

YouTube video

“I hope my testimony is useful. As you mention, I am a practicing attorney in Philadelphia and I was the intended victim of a scam using my son’s voice. Here’s the story.

I was on my way to work. My phone rang. It was my son. He was crying. He said, “Dad, I was in an accident. I hit another car being driven by a pregnant woman. My nose is broken. They arrested me. I’m in jail. They assigned a public defender to me. His name is Barry Goldstein. You need to call him. You have to get me out of here. Help me.”

I said, “Brett, I’ll call and I’ll call you right back.” He said, “You can’t. They took my phone. Help me, dad.”

I’m a father, I’m a lawyer. My son is in trouble. A pregnant woman was hurt. He’s in jail. I’m in action mode. Before I could do anything my phone rings again. It’s Barry Goldstein. “I just met with your son. He’s hurt. He has a broken nose but he will be okay. He hit a car being driven by a pregnant woman. She was taken to the hospital. They arrested your son because he failed the breathalyzer test at the accident scene.”

I said, “Wait. My son would never drink and drive.”

He said Brett told him that but he had an energy drink that morning, and that may have caused the failed test. He said I should take some steps if I wanted to, to bail my son out. I said, “Of course I want to do that.” He said, I will give you the phone number for the courthouse, and here’s your son’s case number. You should call the courthouse and bail him out.

I immediately called the courthouse. They answered correctly. I tell them why I’m calling. They said what your son’s name? They asked for the case number. They said yes, your son is here. Bail was set at $90,000, you need to post 10%, $9000 to bail him out. But there’s a problem. I said, “What’s the problem?”

The county bail bondsman was away on a family emergency, and he’s not available, he said, but there is a solution. You can post what they call an attorney’s bond. I said, “I am an attorney.” He said, “Yes, but you haven’t entered an appearance on behalf of your son. There’s a Mr. Goldstein that did. You should perhaps call him back and try to get him to post the attorney’s bond.”

Hang up call Mr. Goldstein back. “Mr. Goldstein, can you post the bond for my son?”

“Yes. You need to wire me $9000.” He said, “I’m a member of a credit union so you need to take the cash to a certain kiosk which will get the money to me. And I’m scheduled to leave for a conference in California. I would be leaving to the airport in two hours so you need to move quickly.”

I learned later that the kiosk was a bitcoin kiosk that would convert the money to crypto currency. I hang up. All these calls happened in two minutes. This is the first time I had a chance to think. I called my daughter-in-law and suggested that she call work and tell them that my son wasn’t going to make it today because he was in an accident. A few minutes later, Facetime call from my son, he’s pointing to his nose, he goes, “My nose is fine. I’m fine. You are being scammed.”

I sat there in my car. I was physically affected by that. It was shock, anger and relief. I decided that I would try to keep Mr. Goldstein engaged in the scam while I invited law enforcement to become involved. I contacted the Philadelphia police, and they said because I had not lost the money, they couldn’t help me. I called the local FBI office. They said, “Look, there’s burner phones and crypto currency.” They are aware of the scam and that they were unable to bring back crypto currency once it was out of the country or wherever it went. And so they were unwilling to get involved. And that left me fairly frustrated because I have been involved in consumer fraud cases in my career, and I almost fell for this. So, the only thing I thought I could then do was to warn people. So, I approached The Philadelphia Inquirer and they did a feature story, and Fox News ran a segment on their morning show.

The scam hasn’t abated. Since that article came out, I’ve received 20-25 calls throughout the country of people who have been contacted by Barry Goldstein, and who have lost money. And they were devastated. I mean, they are emotionally and physically hurt. They almost were calling to get a phone call hug because they were so upset.

They asked me what could I recommend? I said, “Look, do what I did. Go public.” And the other suggestion I had was to go to the bank where they bank and suggest that tellers inquire about anyone that’s taking out a lot of cash that doesn’t usually do that. That was the only thing I could come up with. The crypto currency and AI have provided a riskless avenue for fraudsters to take advantage of all of us. They have no risk of exposure. I know that there’s economic benefit to crypto currency, but I also know that it causes substantial harm to society and financial harm. To me, it’s fundamental if we are harmed by somebody, there’s a remedy either through the legal system or through law enforcement. In this case, there is no remedy, and that fundamental basis is broken, and I hope that this committee can do something about that. Thank you.”

As you can see, this was emotional testimony about an elaborate scam. There were some red flags and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some good information on their website starting with how the scammers are using AI: “Artificial intelligence is no longer a far-fetched idea out of a sci-fi movie. We’re living with it, here and now. A scammer could use AI to clone the voice of your loved one. All he needs is a short audio clip of your family member’s voice — which he could get from content posted online — and a voice-cloning program. When the scammer calls you, he’ll sound just like your loved one.”

So how can you tell if a scammer is using a cloned voice or if your family member really is in trouble?

The FTC says: “Don’t trust the voice. Call the person who supposedly contacted you and verify the story. Use a phone number you know is theirs. If you can’t reach your loved one, try to get in touch with them through another family member or their friends.”

Another telltale sign that it’s a scam is: “Scammers ask you to pay or send money in ways that make it hard to get your money back. If the caller says to wire money, send cryptocurrency, or buy gift cards and give them the card numbers and PINs, those could be signs of a scam.”

I hope this helps you and your loved ones protect yourselves from these frightening kinds of scams.


Want more travel news, tips and deals? Sign up to Johnny Jet’s free newsletter and check out these popular posts: The Travel Gadget Flight Attendants Never Leave Home Without and 12 Ways to Save Money on Baggage Fees. Follow Johnny Jet on MSNFacebook, InstagramPinterest, and YouTube for all of my travel posts.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *