Hoaxes Using Cloned Children's Voices Continue To Increase

While her 15-year-old daughter Brianna was attending an athletic event, Jennifer DeStefano received a call from an unidentified number. She responded out of fear for a crisis, according to CNN. DeStefano heard a voice that sounded just like Brianna's. She yelled that she had "messed up," and the horrified mother then overheard a stranger telling her daughter to "lay down."

Other concerned mothers surrounded DeStefano as the male voice demanded a $1 million ransom and they all began placing their own calls, including to 911. Within five minutes, they were able to establish Brianna's safety and the false nature of the contact. According to Arizona's KTVK, it appears out that DeStefano was the intended victim of a virtual abduction hoax that used an AI-created clone of her daughter's voice.

According to CNN, the terrifying trick has been taking place throughout the country as thieves manipulate recordings of loved ones' voices. According to FBI spokesman Siobhan Johnson, each fictitious abduction costs US families who are the victims up to $11,000. According to KTVK, the instructions are often to send the money or pay using gift cards.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost $2.6 billion as a result of impostor scams last year.Time magazine describes how con artists utilize audio from the internet in a feature on the use of AI in everything from music to crime—including DeStefano's incident, which happened in January. It is very simple to take a clip, mimic the voice, and use it whatever you choose. Time claims that fresh developments in generative AI have only enhanced the clones' quality.

For CNN, UC Berkeley AI lab member Hany Farid reiterates that this relatively new "threat is not hypothetical—we are seeing scammers weaponize these tools." According to him, a good "clone can be created with under a minute of audio, and some are claiming that even a few seconds may be enough." According to Subbarao Kambhampati, a computer science professor at Arizona State University, "You can no longer trust your ears." CNN provides the following advice to assist you avoid falling victim to one of these scams:

* Avoid sharing information on social media, such as travel plans.
* Create a secret password that is only known by family members to verify the caller's identity.
* Find a strategy to gain time if you suspect a call is phony so you can dial 911.
* Never ever give out financial information over the phone to someone you don't know.

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