Unholy deception: AI robots clone voices of bishops to SCAM convents in Spain
02/28/2024 // Ramon Tomey // 490 Views

Several convents in Spain have been conned into wiring thousands of euros to scammers, who reportedly utilized artificial intelligence (AI) to replicate the voices of religious leaders there.


The Daily Star reported that such schemes have been prevalent in the southern Spanish province of Jaen. According to the Spanish Civil Guard, the law enforcement branch handling crimes in rural areas, up to 15 convents in the province have been targeted by these criminals in the last few weeks.


One fraudster reportedly pretended to be Jaen Bishop Sebastian Chico, calling several nuns at one convent and asking them to transfer €5,000 ($5,425) for surgery. The nuns, having no idea that they were talking to a conman, wired the money – only to realize some time later that they had been scammed.


The same fraudster also phoned a convent in the city of Torredonjimeno in the same province. His ruse worked, as the nuns in the second convent handed half of the amount pilfered from the first convent.


But one nun got wind of the ruse, rebuking the fraudster when he called: "You're not Don Sebastian; your voice is very hoarse." The conman then tried to convince the nun, telling her: "Yes, I am. I need the money for an operation on my throat."


Jose Antonio Sanchez, pro-vicar of the Diocese of Jaen, said: "[The fraudsters] take advantage of the goodwill of these nuns who know that they are very receptive to the bishop, who is their shepherd father."


The bishop's office in the coastal town of Almeria, located in the eponymous province, also echoed Sanchez's remarks. It warned that these scammers are using AI technology "to achieve almost perfect imitations of voices and, in the case of videos, even the face and gestures of the impersonated person." (Related: AI startup under fire after trolls used its voice cloning tool to make celebrities say "offensive things.")


Criminals also use AI to prey on parents

One Arizona mother almost fell victim to a similar AI scam that copied her daughter's voice.


In June 2023, Arizona resident Jennifer DeStefano testified before the U.S. Senate about her experience with such a scam. She recounted her ordeal in April of that year, where a fraudster attempted to extort "ransom money" from her. The scammer used her daughter's voice to pretend that she was kidnapped.


The scammer warned that her daughter would be pumped "full of drugs" and transported to Mexico unless she shelled out $1 million, which was later reduced to $50,000. However, another parent told DeStefano of such AI scams – which was confirmed when both her daughter and her husband repeatedly said they were fine.


Following the fake kidnapping, she tried to file a police report – but was brushed aside and told that the incident was merely a "prank call." Thus, DeStefano called on lawmakers to act to prevent scams such as what happened to her.


"If left uncontrolled [and] unregulated, and we are left unprotected without consequence, it will rewrite our understanding and perception [of] what is and what is not truth," she said. "It will erode our sense of 'familiar' as it corrodes our confidence in what is real and what is not."


Visit Deception.news for more stories about AI-powered scams.


Watch Glenn Beck discuss Jennifer DeStefano's experience of being scammed by AI in the clip below.

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