In Education, Family Support

Kim Komando,

The phone call no one wants

Not long ago, a woman named Robin was sleeping beside her husband, Steve. They live in Brooklyn with their two young kids. No, this isn’t the setup for a joke; it’s the setup for a nightmare scam that’s becoming way too commonplace.

Robin was awakened by a phone call from her mother-in-law, Mona. “Must be a butt-dial,” she figured. Then the phone rang again. When she picked up, she heard Mona sobbing, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”

Then, a man she’d never heard before came on the line. “I’ve got a gun to your mom’s head, and I’m gonna blow her brains out if you don’t do exactly what I say.”

I’ll cut to the chase. It was a deepfake. Robin’s in-laws were never in danger — but she didn’t know that.

What should you do if this happens to you?

These criminals bank on you losing your cool. They use every scare tactic in the book to keep you on the phone and doing exactly what they want. They almost always want money — as was the case for Robin.

Say you get a call telling you your daughter’s being held for ransom. Your immediate priority should be to try to contact her directly. These scams fall apart quickly since the person was never in danger — but you won’t know that until you can confirm.

This isn’t the first time … or the last time

I’ve been writing about this type of scam for a long time, and I’m seeing more reports of it in the news. It’s frightening to think that just a few seconds of your voice can lead to a horrible situation for your loved ones.

I mean it when I say “a few seconds,” by the way. Think about your voicemail messages. Leaving “Hello? Is anyone there?” or recording an outgoing “Hi, you’ve reached Jon! Please leave a message” is plenty for a cybercriminal to train AI to sound exactly like you.

That voice profile can be used in classic scams targeting older family members or grieving relatives, too. It’s nasty stuff.

So what’s the quickest and easiest way to avoid all this?

  • Delete that custom outgoing voicemail message: The steps are slightly different for each device, but you can find the general rundown in our guide.
  • Look on social: Remove or hide any videos in which you’re speaking.
  • Get your personal info off people-search sites: This way, the scammers can’t get your name and phone number. My radio sponsor, Incogni, does just this — use promo code Kim60 to save 60%. I don’t get any residuals if you buy, fwiw.


The FTC has another piece of advice: Don’t say a word That means if you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, wait for the caller to speak first to see if there’s a human there. If not, hang up — even if they talk and you think it’s a scam.

✅ This is important stuff, folks. Use the sharing buttons below to pass it on to the people you care about.

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