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Even the rich and famous can be catfished — and the Paisleys know all about it.
In a recent interview, Brad Paisley and his wife, "Nashville" star Kimberly Williams-Paisley, admitted they had been the victims of a cruel hoax that began with an email from a total stranger.
In the note, a distraught mother named Carrie claimed that her daughter Claire was suffering from a neuroblastoma, a type of pediatric cancer that often results in death.
Kimberly recalls that Carrie "said that her daughter had begged to get in touch with me" but that she "had forgotten about her daughter's request in the midst of everything else going on in their lives." In Kimberly's mind, that positioning made the outreach seem genuine.
"She wasn't dying to get a hold of me," the 42-year-old actress recounts. "So it sounded very sort of real… that was kind of the beginning of the manipulation."
But the deception only piled on from there. Kimberly began to communicate with them through calls and texts, and Carrie sent Kimberly photos of her alleged dying 8-year-old daughter, journal entries, and even recordings of songs Claire had sung for the star.
"Thank you for letting me love you, and thank you for being my miracle," the dying girl had told Kimberly, who admitted while it crossed her mind that this could be a scam, her desire to help if it wasn't won out.
After 10 days of exchanges, Brad even got on the phone and sang "Amazing Grace" to the child because he had bought in as well.
"You're singing to someone's dying kid. And in the middle of it, there's no way that's not real. How can that not be real?" the CMA host asks.
But it wasn't. Things got sketchy when Claire supposedly died and the Paisleys requested an address where they could send flowers for the funeral. Instead, they received a nasty email.
"I don't need you to pray for me," the mother wrote. "Doesn't seem like god hears much of anything these days."
Kimberly realized something was very wrong. "I had a physical reaction. Every red flag went up that I couldn't ask a simple question."
A bit of digging unearthed the truth: "Claire" was not real, and the photos of her that "Carrie" provided had been pulled off the blog of a real girl in Southern California who had neuroblastoma.
"That's the sickest part about this to me," Brad lamented. "That is the part that when I start to talk about that, that's when I get really mad. That these were real kids, that there were real photos involved."
"I felt so violated, and scared," Kimberly described. And while they weren't conned out of any money, "It's sort of like emotional terrorism," Brad explained. So while it's easy to ask, "How could you be duped?" stories like this make it not so hard to see how easily you could.