AI voice clone poses as kidnapped teen daughter in evil $1 million scam

A kidnapped child with a rope around her face
Credit: Royalty free image created by Alexander Grey

A kidnapped child with a rope around her face
Credit: Royalty free image created by Alexander Grey

A new wave of AI voice clones is resulting in a terrifying new generation of phone scams. One American mother revealed that scammers used an AI voice clone of her daughter in an attempt to $1 million in ransom money.

Speaking to WKYT, Arizonan mother Jennifer DeStefano revealed that a scammer cloned her daughters voice and faked a kidnapping in exchange for money.

DeStefano explained that she got a call from an unknown number while her 15-year-old daughter was out of town skiing. After picking up the phone, she was met with a panicked AI voice clone of her daughter.

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

After hearing her daughter’s voice, the voice of a man joined it, telling the AI voice clone to put her head back and lie down on the floor.

“Listen here. I’ve got your daughter,” the scammer told DeStefano. “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.”

“At that moment, I just started shaking,” the Arizonan mother explained. “In the background she’s going, ‘Help me, Mom. Please help me. Help me,’ and bawling.”

The scammer demanded $1 million for the safe return of DeStefano’s daughter. However, the scammer quickly started reducing his obscene ask after discovering she didn’t have that amount of money, instead asking for $50,000.

While she was on the call, a number of DeStefano’s friends and colleagues started to call the police as well as her husband. Quickly, it was discovered that the teenage daughter was not in the midst of a terrifying kidnapping scheme, but was instead at home relaxing.

DeStefano revealed that her encounter with the AI voice clone was terrifying with the recreation being a dead ringer for her daughter. With the emotion that AI voices are now able to replicate, it was a realistic enough recreation to fool the mother.

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

AI voice clones have come a long way in relatively little time. Over the past few years, more and more AI voice services have popped up. While some professional services are allowing disabled celebrities such as Val Kilmer to regain their voices, alternatives are becoming increasingly popular for online hate campaigns and even scams.

Using online services such as ElevenLabs AI, it’s possible to create a realistic voice clone with just over a minute of audio. In the modern world, a TikTok or two is enough to create an AI voice clone of a person. With how popular video-based social media is with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and more, it’s too easy to create complete voice clones of anyone.

Following the rapid adoption of AI art and other content generation, AI voice clones are about to become a major issue for scammers. Especially when it comes to older people, the realistic cloning technology will undoubtedly fool numerous people as time goes on.

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