AI Kidnapping Scam! You Could Be Next! A Shocking True Crime Story
Okay. Your daughter’s out-of-town. Out-of-state. Ski trip. Spring break. She’s only 15, so you pick up when your phone rings, even though it’s not a number you’re familiar with.
You hear your daughter’s voice.
“Mom!” She’s sobbing. “Mom, I messed up.”
Now your daughter’s crying uncontrollably.
You can’t breathe. What’s wrong? What did your little girl get herself into?
Then, a man’s voice comes on the line. “Put your head back, lie down,” he says.
While you’re trying to clear your stomach from your throat, he says, “Listen. I’ve got your daughter."
“This is how it’s going to go down. You call the police, you call anybody, I’m going to pop her so full of drugs. I’m going to have my way with her, and I’m going to drop her off in Mexico.’”
You’re trembling so hard you can barely stand and are close to dropping the phone. But you can’t. The last thing you want to do is break this connection.
So you wait.
Then, you hear your daughter again.
“Help me, Mom. Please help me. Help me!”
The man demands a $1 million ransom. OMG! You don’t have that kind of cash. You’re honest with him. So he says, “Okay. $500,000.”
WTF are you going to do?
Luckily, you happened to be surrounded by friends at your other daughter’s dance class. You signal to them. Put your hand over the phone. Whisper to your closest friend. Tell her what’s happening. She signals to another friend. Spreads the message. This is like high school girls telling each other a secret, but it's no giggling game this time. Your daughter’s life is on the line.
The second friend calls 911. Your best friend calls your husband. Tells him what’s going on.
WTF is he going to do?
He calls your daughter, the one who’s been kidnapped. She answers her phone. WTF not? He's a dad. That's what dads do.
She says, “WTF, Dad? What’s going on? Yes, I am okay. With friends.”
OMG! It was all an incredibly hideous scam run by some rat bastard who couldn’t care less that you and your husband nearly had strokes and heart attacks.
But it sounded so much like your daughter. How could he have done this?
It was an AI kidnapping scam, and it happened to Jennifer DeStefano and her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this month, April 2023.
“It was completely her voice. It was her inflection. It was the way she would have cried,” Jennifer told KPHO TV. “I never doubted for one second it was her. That’s the freaky part that really got me to my core.”
Her daughter probably never said anything that Jennifer heard in that terrifying ransom call. She didn’t have to.
According to Subbarao Kambhampati, a computer science professor at Arizona State University, AI programs have become so good that they only need three seconds of your voice to clone and create a conversation.
“You can no longer trust your ears,” Kambhampati said.
WTF do you do if you get a call like the one that scared the living crap out of Jennifer?
“Just think of the movies. Slow it down. Slow the person down. Ask a bunch of questions,” FBI Special Agent Dan Mayo said.
“If they have someone of interest to you, you’re going to know a lot of details about them that this scam artist isn’t going to know."
“You start asking questions about who it is and different details of their background that are not publicly available, you’re going to find out real quick that it’s a scam artist.”
Mayo also said it's more important than ever to keep your personal information as private as possible to ensure you're not the next victim.
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