Netsafe warns Open AI's latest tool Voice Engine can copy voices, worsen scamming

Imagine getting a call from your child saying they are in trouble, but really, it's an artificial intelligence (AI) bot in the hands of a scammer.  

It comes as Netsafe warns new tools recently unveiled by Open AI could make such scams a reality.   

In the age of AI, seeing is no longer believing, and now, you can't believe your ears either. 

Open AI's latest tool Voice Engine can use as little as 15 seconds of voice recording and can recreate that voice to say anything at all. 

And it can be done in essentially any language.  

"It is going so fast, and yes some of it does freak me out a bit," Gorilla Tech's Paul Spain said.

"What's different is OpenAI are bringing this to the table, and of course, they've made their technology so accessible with ChatGPT and just a tool that anybody can jump on." 

While Open AI says their tool is too risky to release yet, many other versions are already available, with companies like Heygen building businesses off the back of them. 

The potential for businesses is obvious, but so is the potential for superpowered scams - where instead of a suspicious text message, it's a phone call.  

"If we take that from a text and turn that into somebody's voice, the voice of your children saying 'I'm in trouble, I can't talk, but I need you to send me money, information', whatever it might be - that's the kind of scam that I think could be so much more convincing and so much more problematic for New Zealanders," Netsafe's Sean Lyons told Newshub. 

Lyons admitted the technology is getting "better and better". 

However, while scammers' tools might be advancing, the best defence remains the same. 

"The strongest tool in a scammer's arsenal, no matter what technology they use, is often that fear of loss and that 'act now'," Lyons said. 

"The best thing you can do is stop and take a breath.

"If it is a business, if it is your child and you check with them, they're going to understand why you did. If it's not, you're going to save yourself a lot of heartache." 

With both our eyes and ears now deceiving us, separating reality from fiction is getting harder, and more important than ever.