Fujitsu tech can tell when you're stressed on the phone, vulnerable to scams

Fujitsu and Nagoya University hope the new technology will help combat phone scams in Japan that largely target the elderly

Japanese technology giant Fujitsu said it has developed a system that can determine when someone is being targeted by a phone scam.

The company said that together with Nagoya University, located in central Japan, it has combined two technologies to detect when someone is being conned. One is audio analysis software that tracks the loudness and pitch of a potential victim's voice during a conversation on a mobile phone, changes in which can indicate a speaker is under stress.

The second technology uses voice recognition to scan the words spoken by the person on the other end of the conversation. It counts how many times words appear that are often used during phone scams, such as "debt" and "repayment," based on a list provided by the National Police Academy, a school for senior police officers.

The results of the two checks are combined to identify potential problem conversations. Fujitsu said it will now conduct tests with the academy and a major bank in Nagoya using phone scams that have been previously recorded, and work to create a system that works with mobile phones and warns victims and their relatives when it detects a problem.

Mobile phone scams, especially those that target the elderly, are a major social issue in Japan, which is relatively crime-free compared to other countries. In one common con, criminals posing as relatives of victims attempt to persuade them that they are in trouble and need money transferred to a certain account to bail them out.

Japan's national police said that last year about ¥9 billion yen (US$110 million) was identified as being stolen through such scams. Many banks post warnings at their ATMs warning users to think twice before they withdraw or transfer sums under unsure circumstances.

While such a system would have a number of obvious privacy issues to overcome, detecting crimes using victims' voices is a novel approach. Traditional lie detectors target the potential liar, measuring physical traits such as an individual's breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and electrodermal response (which measures skin moistness, or sweatiness) to determine changes in their stress levels.

Fujitsu and Nagoya University fist announced the research in November of 2009, with the support of a government body that backs promising scientific research.

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