DeStefano got an unknown call
One afternoon, when Jennifer DeStefano got out of her car outside the dancing studio where her younger daughter Aubrey had a practice, her phone rang. She momentarily considered not answering the phone while the caller’s identity was unknown. However, DeStefano worried that her older daughter Brianna, 15, who was away competing in a ski race, might have a medical emergency.
She spoke into the speaker phone while locking her car and carrying her handbag and laptop bag inside the studio, “Hello?” Sobbing and screaming greeted her. “Mom! I screwed up!” a girl’s voice yelled. What did you do?!? “, said DeStefano. What just happened? The voice, the tone, everything sounded just like Brie’s. When a man abruptly said, “Lay down, put your head back,” she heard it. She believes that she gets forced off the mountain, which happens frequently when skiing.
A heavy male voice began barking orders while the calls for assistance persisted in the background: “Listen here. I have your daughter. You may call the police or anyone; I’m going to give her a drug-filled shot. You won’t see her again once I have my way with her and then deliver her to Mexico. DeStefano became rigid. She then sprinted into the dance studio while trembling and yelling for assistance. She experienced a sudden sense of drowning.
Kidnapping was a scam
The “kidnapping” came out as a hoax following a hectic, quick-fire chain of events involving a $1 million ransom demand, a 911 call, and a desperate attempt to contact Brianna. Calling her mother, a perplexed Brianna said that she didn’t understand the commotion and that everything was great. However, Arizona resident DeStefano will never forget those four minutes of terror, perplexity, and the unsettling sound of that familiar voice. A mother knows her child, she claimed. Across the building, you can hear your child sobbing, and you recognize it as yours.
Artificial intelligence has made kidnapping scams believable
Around 4:55 p.m. on January 20, the call arrived. In Scottsdale, Arizona, close to Phoenix, DeStefano was standing in front of the dancing studio. DeStefano now thinks she was the target of a nationwide scam where individuals are tricked into paying money after being terrified by phony recordings of loved ones’ voices.
Imposter scams harass people through phone calls
The Scottsdale Police Department’s 911 call includes audio of a mother at the dancing class attempting to explain the situation to the operator. The second mom replies, “So, a mother just entered; she received a call from someone who has her daughter, like a kidnapper who was on the phone saying he wants a million dollars. He forbids her from speaking to her daughter.
After hearing sobbing, DeStefano is heard yelling in the background, “I want to talk to my girl!” The dispatcher quickly recognized the call as a scam. “So that is a very popular scam,” she remarked. “Are they asking her to leave to get cash and stuff like that?” Imposter fraud has existed for quite some time. Fake kidnappers have utilized the generic sounds of people screaming. DeStefano says fraudsters duplicated her daughter’s sobbing voice. She’s simply not sure how they obtained it.
A scammer uses AI to clone your voice
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning that fraudsters can get audio snippets from victims’ internet posts. A fraudster might use artificial intelligence to clone your loved one’s voice. All he requires is a brief audio clip of your family member’s voice, which he may obtain from web sources and a voice-cloning application. The scammer will call you and sound similar to your loved one.
Tips for thwarting fake kidnappers
The FBI’s Johnson gave some advice on how to prevent getting scammed:
- Don’t share details about forthcoming vacations on social media. It opens the door for scammers to target your family.
- Make a password for your family. If someone calls and claims to have abducted your child, tell them to ask the youngster for the password.
- If you receive such a call, give yourself extra time to prepare a strategy and notify police authorities. Send a note to someone else in the house informing them of the situation. Make a phone call.
- If you’re in the midst of a virtual kidnapping and someone else is in the house, ask them to call 911 and ask the operator to inform the FBI.
- Be careful when giving financial information over the phone to strangers. Virtual kidnappers frequently seek a ransom in the form of a wire transfer, bitcoin, or gift cards.
- Most importantly, do not believe the voice you hear on the phone. If you are unable to contact a loved one, have a family member, acquaintance, or someone else in the room contact them on your behalf.
Jennifer DiStefano, an American mother, got a scary phone call from kidnappers. She overheard her daughter sobbing during that phone chat. Jennifer assumed her daughter got kidnapped, but it turned out to be a scam.