Scammer Uses AI to Clone Girl’s Voice -Fakes Kidnapping, Demands Ransom From Mother

Jennifer DeStefano’s heart sank when she picked up an unidentified phone call and heard her 15-year-old daughter Brie frightened and screaming on the other end. It was every parent’s worst nightmare. The Arizona mom recalls hearing a man’s voice on the phone line, demanding $1 million in exchange for her daughter’s life–only DeStefano’s daughter was safe and sound all along. The “kidnapper” had cloned her voice using AI technology.

“I never doubted for one second it was her,” DeStefano told WKYT News while recounting the terrifying series of events. “That’s the freaky part that really got me to my core.”

DeStefano recalled that her daughter had been out of town on a skiing trip. The call came in from an unidentified phone number, which the Arizona mom answered out of concern that there may have been an accident.

“I pick up the phone, and I hear my daughter’s voice, and it says, ‘Mom!’ and she’s sobbing. I said, ‘What happened?’ And she said, ‘Mom, I messed up,’ and she’s sobbing and crying.”

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DeStefano told local media she heard a man’s voice on the phone telling her daughter, “Put your head back, lie down.”

“He’s like, ‘listen here. 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… And at that moment, I just started shaking. In the background, she’s going, ‘Help me, Mom. Please help me. Help me,’ and bawling.”

The kidnapper reportedly demanded $1 million from DeStefano in exchange for her daughter’s life. After the distraught mother explained that she did not have the money on hand, the man eventually agreed to put a price tag of $50,000 on 15-year-old Brie’s life.

DeStefano had been visiting her daughter’s dance studio at the time, and several worried moms began to make phone calls of their own. After a call to 911 and another to DeStefano’s husband, they confirmed within minutes that Brie was safe and sound.

“She was upstairs in her room going, ‘What? What’s going on? Then I get angry, obviously, with these guys. This is not something you play around with.”

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Brie’s voice had been cloned using AI technology–likely from only a few seconds of a recording, according to Arizona State University computer science professor Subbarao Kambhampati. “You can no longer trust your ears,” he told WKYT. Brie reportedly had a handful of public interviews posted from her school.

“And with the three seconds, it can come close to how exactly you sound. Most of the voice cloning actually captures the inflection as well as the emotion,” Kambhampati added.

“It was completely her voice. It was her inflection. It was the way she would have cried,” Jennifer DeStefano said. “I never doubted for one second it was her. That’s the freaky part that really got me to my core.”

“I literally just sat down and broke down crying. They were tears for all of the what ifs. It all just seemed so real.”

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