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Georgia father warns of AI scam after he transfers $2,500 into caller's bank account

An alleged kidnapping scam is nothing new. Advanced technology, however, can help make the calls scarily realistic.

ATLANTA — Dale Herndon normally doesn't answer calls from numbers he doesn't know. 

The same went for last Thursday — until the unknown caller made a third attempt. He knew his daughter was traveling and feared something could have gone wrong.

"If it wasn't somebody I knew, I could just tell them to go away," he said. "So I picked it up and I heard my daughter screaming on the phone. I mean, it was clearly my daughter's voice."

He said his daughter told him she'd been in a car wreck. A man then got on the phone and identified himself as the other driver. Herndon said that man told an odd story involving 5 kilograms of cocaine in his car — and then began making threats.

"I can't have her recognize me. I need some assurance that she's not going to rat on me," Herndon recalled. "He said, 'If you don't follow what I say and what I'm telling you to do, I'm going to rape her and 'F' her up so bad when you get back to her, you won't know who she is or and she will not be the same person. Am I clear?'"

Herndon heard screams in the background and rushed to follow his instructions. While the story seemed odd, he said his daughter's screams were enough to overshadow any doubts.

"Believe me, when you hear your daughter screaming like that, you will do whatever it takes," he said. "AI, they were able to replicate her voice somehow. They knew she was in Atlanta. They very well may have known that she was going to the airport."

Credit: Dale Herndon

The Better Business Bureau said the alleged kidnapping scam isn't necessarily new. However, new technology like AI can make the calls more convincing, giving families less time to investigate on their own. 

"What scammers are really trying to do is act impulsive. They don't want you to think," BBB spokesperson Simone Williams said. "They just want you to spend money because if you don't, then your family member is going to be harmed."

She said many of the families affected aren't able to get their money back.

"Talk to other family members and just try to figure out what that story is," Williams said. "The first thing that people should do is resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is."

Herndon said he was sharing his story to warn other people about how realistic the scam sounded with his daughter's voice. He hopes it won't happen again.

"My whole thing was when I heard all this, I just thought, this is my daughter. 'I've got to do something,'" he said. "When I'm on the call with my daughter and she screams Bloody Mary, I can't hang up and call the police."

He transferred $2,500 to the caller's bank account. Once he realized his daughter wasn't in danger, he filed a police report so they could investigate.


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