The world has changed dramatically over the past few months with the public release of AI tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and the many AI voice generators that are being used to mimic celebrities or read articles (like the play ▶️ button above that will read this article for you right now).
As with most technology, these advances stem from work that’s been stewing beneath the surface for many years, but there is no question that AI has recently erupted with the strength of the strongest volcanoes and, similarly, threatens to quickly alter our landscape before we have a chance to plan around it.
While these incredible tools, for the most part, are being used to better humankind and the world around us, they have also become the source of unprecedented scams.
In response to these growing threats, families must adopt new strategies to protect themselves and maintain their sense of security.
One such method is the implementation of a family code word—a simple yet powerful tool that can be used throughout life to ensure the safety and well-being of your family members.
Family code words serve as an essential line of defense against potential dangers, enabling individuals to both verify authenticity and communicate distress.
This article is going to dive into the importance of family code words through various stages of life, from early childhood all the way through our senior years. We’ll offer guidance on how to create a family code word, how to track your family code word, and how to use it effectively in different situations.
By embracing the concept of a family code word, you’ll empower yourself and your family, finding yourself wandering the path of The Wiser Way, strengthening your bonds and fostering a safer, less stressful environment.
What we’ll cover:
So, let’s get started…
Combating AI Voice Spoofing: The Need for Family Code Words
While this article is going to cover different uses for a password throughout different stages of life, from early childhood through to our golden years, given the current climate of AI voice spoofing, we need to start at the end.
How is AI Voice Spoofing Being Used by Scammers?
Let’s begin with a quick video segment from Good Morning America that explains the situation with a real life example.
This sort of scam has been happening for years and is often referred to as “The Grandparent Scam”. Typically, at least in the past, it would target older adults as they aren’t in constant contact with their younger relatives and might have a harder time discerning their voice over a poorly connected phone call. However, with the significant strides that artificial intelligence and voice generation has taken recently, this has all changed.
For instance, we made the 10 second clip below in about 10 seconds simply by typing the words into an AI voice generator.
While these calls used to rely completely on panic, they are now placing more and more weight onto the ability for machines to mimic human voices and speech patterns with alarming accuracy. It’s one of the many reasons we always suggest letting unknown numbers go through to voicemail—you don’t want your voice recorded as it can quickly and easily be spoofed.
The video above is just one chilling example of this new technology at play. The mother who received a phone call claiming to be their kidnapped daughter couldn’t tell that she was speaking to an AI-generated voice. It was incredibly convincing and beyond the fact that she nearly paid a very large ransom for a situation that turned out to be completely fabricated, the mental anguish that it put her through will likely traumatize her for the rest of her life.
How Can a Family Code Word Decrease Risk and Anxiety?
It’s actually quite simple. Similar to those rather annoying “I’m not a robot” tests that we have all grown to hate—you know the ones, they ask you to point out all the street lights or crosswalks and sometimes you second guess your own humanity as it takes 3 tries to get it right—well, we need to add these tests to the offline world as well.
It’s a pain. Sure. The fact that we need an “I’m not a robot” checkbox to speak with our own kids or grandkids is utterly ridiculous, but it’s the quickest and simplest way to verify that we’re speaking to an actual loved one.
Rather than relying solely on a realistic voice and publicly available information like a name or address, if you have a family code word in place, something secret that a scammer couldn’t simply find on a Facebook profile or TikTok video, your child can use this as part of the distress call. Assuming the caller doesn’t know or use the word, you can rest assured that it is a scam.
By implementing a family code word, individuals can reduce their vulnerability to voice spoofing scams and regain a sense of security in an increasingly uncertain digital landscape.
Early Childhood: Establishing Trust with Family Code Words
There is a lot of talk these days about using family code words to avoid falling into the trappings of a scammer and their AI tools, but there was use for this concept well before AI was prevalent as well and interestingly, it’s for quite a different reason.
By introducing a family code word early in a child’s life, we provide our children with a simple yet effective tool to help them navigate potentially dangerous situations. Again, not only will this bring a sense of security to our lives, but it eliminates unnecessary stress from our day to day.
The goal here is to create a safety protocol that our children can use to protect themselves from potential, real life kidnapping threats.
It’s a tale as old as time. A young child is waiting after soccer practice to be picked up. A stranger approaches and tells them they are a friend of the family. They tell them that their mom or dad sent them as they are busy or injured. They know the parents’ names. They know the name of their dog or the street that they live on. Essentially, they have a bunch of “proof of relationship” based on information that can be nabbed off the internet with a few clicks on social media.
What they don’t know is the family code word.
By creating a word or phrase, and training our kids on it from the time that they are able to remember such things, we can teach them plain and simple: do not get into a stranger’s car unless they know the code. No matter what other information they have, do not do it.
Of course, if you are having an emergency and need to send someone who your child has never met to pick them up (seems like a very rare occurrence), you’d tell them the code word.
Make it a habit to practice the code with your children and remind them of the significance. Reinforce the message as often as you can. If they don’t know the person and the person doesn’t know the code, run the other way.
Teenage Years: Utilizing Family Code Words for Safe Communication
It’s amazing how effective a family code word can be even when our children move into their teenage years. And yet again, the use case morphs into something new, albeit equally important.
As children grow into their awkward teenage years, their social interactions and experiences can become quite complex. At this stage of life, the family code word is adapted into a discreet and effective means of communicating moments where our kids feel uncomfortable or unsafe or even to request a bit of parental intervention when they don’t know how to handle a situation.
Using the Code Word to Signal Dangerous or Uncomfortable Situations
Teenagers can sometimes find themselves in situations where they may feel unsafe or uncertain. It could be a Saturday night party or an afternoon at a friend’s house that takes an unexpected turn. Either way, we can all recall a moment in our own lives when we didn’t feel comfortable with the situation at hand, but also didn’t want to be the so-called “loser” who asked to leave or told our friends to stop what they were doing.
Using that same code word that helps a young child know who is truly a family friend or helps an older adult know if it is truly their grandchild on the other end of a ransom call, a teenager can text or call their parents and drop the “I don’t feel safe” note into their lap without raising suspicion amongst their friends.
It’s a way for teens, already uncomfortable in their own skin, to secretly key you into their situation, letting you know that they’d like to be picked up. Now it’s just on you as the parent to be the “bad guy” and come rip them away from their friends…but in reality, you’re being the superhero.
Allowing the Code Word to Serve as a Request for Parental Intervention
Perhaps a less precarious scenario, but a code word can serve as an opportunity for your teenage child to remove themselves from a scenario that they struggle to deal with on their own.
Sometimes a teenager may struggle to say ‘no’ to certain situations or requests, such as an unwanted sleepover or dinner invitation. A family code word can be used in these instances to signal to their parents that they need help in declining the invitation. Parents can then step in, providing a reason or excuse on their child’s behalf, allowing the teen to save face and avoid an uncomfortable confrontation, blaming the “no” on their mom or dad. This method fosters open communication between parents and teenagers, while also promoting a sense of security and trust.
Best Practices for Creating and Implementing Effective Family Code Words
When selecting a family code word, it’s important to choose a term that is unique and memorable for all family members. Ideally, the code word should not be easily guessed or associated with the family in any obvious way. This helps ensure that the code word remains secure and effective in serving its purpose.
Outside of the word being unique and memorable, be sure it is a word that could easily be slipped into conversation without outsiders knowing what is being said—but of course, don’t make it so common that you wouldn’t recognize it either.
A word like “bubblegum” is something recognizable and memorable even by a young child. It might come up in general conversation on occasion, but typically you’d understand through context if it is being used because a member of the family genuinely wants a piece of bubblegum rather than a member of the family feeling that they are in trouble.
It would be easy for a young child to ask for that word from a stranger and it would be similarly easy for a teenager to casually slip it into a phone call without their friends realizing it. “Ya mom, I’m fine. The party is super fun! Although I’m oddly craving some bubblegum.”
Regularly Reviewing and Updating the Code Word
To keep the family code word relevant and top-of-mind, it’s essential to review and update it regularly. This can be done during family meetings or through periodic reminders. You could even store it in a shared app that the family uses, such as WayWiser. This way, a relative outside of your immediate family, like a grandparent or uncle, can quickly look up the code word if they are ever in need (for instance, if they receive a grandparent scam type of call).
Ensuring that all family members are aware of the current code word and its significance is crucial for maintaining its effectiveness.
It’s also critical to keep communication open amongst your family members. Discussing the purpose of the code word and the various situations in which it can be used helps to establish a shared understanding. Mutual comprehension lays the foundation for a more secure and trusting environment.
Conclusion: Reducing Anxiety and Improving Safety with Code Words
The importance of family code words cannot be overstated. Throughout all stages of life, these unique and powerful tools provide an invaluable means of ensuring the safety and security of our loved ones.
Whether you’re caring for young children, teenagers, older parents, or anyone in between, a family code word can find purpose in your life.
By establishing and maintaining a family code word, you can strengthen the bonds between family members, foster open communication, and create a safer environment for everyone involved.
We encourage all families to embrace the concept of family code words and take this essential step in safeguarding their well-being.