AI virtual switchboards unleashing a wave of spam calls

Spam calls and messages have always been an ongoing nightmare to mobile phone users, yet legal measures have shown little effect in eliminating them.


Nearly every mobile phone subscriber in Vietnam frequently receives marketing calls and messages for financial investments, stocks, insurance, real estate, or even worse, scams impersonating government agencies. These spam calls or messages originate from AI virtual switchboards with hundreds of display formats. Their phone numbers are either of Vietnamese networks or international prefixes, and even displaying switchboards of brands.

Technological experts comment that AI virtual switchboards use more cunning techniques to reach mobile users, such as making a short ring and hanging up, prompting users to call back out of curiosity; impersonating government agencies to inform users of traffic or tax violations to commit fraud; inviting to join international financial and stock investment groups with a promise of lucrative profits, then scamming their money.

There are normally two ways to exploit an AI virtual switchboard for scamming, as stated by Head Vo Duy Khanh of the Mobile Security Department under BKAV Malware Research Center.

Use only an AI system to automatically makes calls, talks, waits, and assists customers with key presses. This mechanism aims to increase the number of calls and reach more people.

Use a combination of an AI system and real people to easily change voice and appearance. There is usually a well-designed scenario to exploit victims’ psychology for fraud after collecting the victim’s voice and images.

“It is easy to detect such a call when noticing a monotone voice without any emotions or slow responses that do not match the inquiries”, stressed Head Duy Khanh.

Thanks to the ability to work round the clock, AI virtual switchboards are often used by businesses for basic customer services to reduce operation costs and increase service quality. Any companies in need can order one tailored-made AI system for themselves, with a price of up to hundreds of millions of VND.

Ill-intention people can then order a customized AI switchboard to deliver spam calls using fake voice to market new products or even to trick victims. Call receivers usually feel annoyed because the calls reach them at uncomfortable times.

CEO Ho Minh Duc of Startup Vbee emphasized the need to have stricter monitoring over providers of AI switchboard services to minimize valueless uses, along with severe punishments from functional agencies to those violating laws.

Vu Ngoc Son, a member of the Executive Committee of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, stated that to use AI switchboards effectively without disturbing users, businesses and organizations need to strictly follow regulations on making calls and sending SMS messages on telecommunications networks by closely complying with Decree 91/2020/ND-CP on combating spam SMS, emails, and calls.

“Users must be aware of AI switchboards and have the right to refuse calls and information from these switchboards. The use of AI switchboards must be responsible and respect the rights of users”, stressed Mr. Son.

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