Deepfake technology has been making waves in recent years, thanks to its astounding ability to conjure up a digital alternate reality. However, along with the possibilities of deepfakes for entertainment and satire come some serious concerns, the potential use for impersonation (and not the flattering kind).
Now, we don’t want to be alarmists. The generation of Deepfake media in itself is not considered identity theft. However, the use of deepfake with malicious intent for impersonation, especially to commit fraud can be classified as identity theft.
While deepfake technology can be used for harmless fun like swapping faces with your best friend in a hilarious video. The truth is, deepfakes hold significant potential to become a major catalyst in the realm of personal information misuse.
But don’t worry, we’re not here to scare you. In this post, we would explore the topic of deepfakes and identity theft in more detail, including how they can be used for fraud and what measures you can take to prevent misuse. So sit back and keep reading, trust us, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds (we promise).
Ways Deepfake Could Be Used For Identity Theft
Picture this, by using sophisticated algorithms to generate media, someone could potentially create a profile of you online that is not actually you. And that’s a problem because having an online presence is becoming increasingly important in everyday life, from job applications to social media.
While deepfakes are inherently safe, here are use cases of deepfakes that can be considered identity theft:
Deepfake Used in New Account Fraud
New account fraud is a type of identity theft that involves opening new financial accounts, such as credit cards or loan requests, using fake or stolen identities. Deepfake technology has made it easier for cybercriminals to commit this type of fraud.
For instance, a fraudster may collect images of a victim from their social media accounts and use them to create a deepfake profile that looks and sounds like the victim. They can also create fake IDs that are almost impossible to distinguish from the real ones.
They can then use these fake IDs to open new accounts in your name or someone else’s, leading to significant financial losses for the victim.
Audio deepfakes can also be used in this type of fraud as a victim’s voice can be simulated and used to place calls with new phone numbers usually asking for funds. An example of this was published in Wall Street Journal when a fraudster used deepfake audio to impersonate the CEO of a UK-based energy firm.
The fraudster called the CEO’s subsidiary in Germany and convinced the executive to transfer over $243,000 to a Hungarian supplier. The fraud was only discovered when the CEO later spoke to his colleagues and realized he had never authorized the transfer.
According to the 2022 Internet Crime Report, identity theft remains one of the most prevalent types of cybercrime, with a total reported loss of $10.2 billion in the United States alone.
With the rise in the sophistication of deepfake technology, the potential for new account fraud and other forms of identity theft is only expected to increase.
Deepfake Used in Commiting “Ghost Fraud”
Yup, you read that right, unfortunately even in the afterlife, your identity is still not safe from potential fraudsters. Deepfake technology can also be used to commit “ghost fraud,” which involves using the personal data of a deceased person to impersonate them for financial gain. This type of fraud is particularly insidious since the victim is no longer alive to detect or prevent fraudulent activity.
The process of committing ghost fraud using deepfake technology involves collecting as much personal information about the deceased person as possible, such as their name, birth date, social security number, and other identifying details. This information can be obtained through various means, including social media, obituaries, public records, etc.
Once the fraudster has obtained the necessary personal information, they can use deepfake technology to create a convincing digital identity of the deceased person, including voice and video recordings.
With a realistic deepfake persona in hand, the fraudster can then open new bank accounts, apply for credit cards, loans, and even file tax returns in the name of the deceased person.
Deepfake Used in Synthetic Identity Fraud
Think of synthetic identity fraud as a merger between new account fraud and ghost fraud. This type of identity theft involves creating a completely fake identity using a combination of both real (sometimes from deceased individuals) and fictitious information.
In this scheme, fraudsters may use elements of real identities, such as social security numbers, along with fabricated data such as names, addresses, and phone numbers to create a new, synthetic identity.
Unlike traditional identity theft, where a criminal uses a stolen identity to access an individual’s existing accounts, synthetic identity fraud involves creating an entirely new identity that may not even belong to a real person. It is a complex and sophisticated scheme that can take months or even years to execute.
One of the methods that fraudsters use to create synthetic identities is “data farming” which involves collecting large amounts of personal information from various sources such as social media, data breaches, and the dark web. With this information, fraudsters can create fake identities that appear to be legitimate.
The fraudster can then use these identities to open bank accounts. As the fraudster builds up a credit history, they can then begin to apply for larger credit lines, often with the intention of maxing them out before disappearing entirely.
The consequences of synthetic identity fraud can be devastating, both for individuals whose identities are stolen and for the financial institutions that fall victim to the fraudsters.
Why Deepfake-Based Identity is Worrying
Deepfake-enabled identity theft is a serious concern for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole. The impact of such fraud goes beyond just financial loss, it spills into other areas of our lives.
For example, the impersonation of a politician or other influential public figures can be used to manipulate public opinion, sow distrust, or even incite violence.
Moreover, the ease with which deepfake technology works with AI video generators makes it so much easier for bad actors to learn how to use it. This means that anyone can easily become a victim of identity theft. Cybercriminals can use this technology to create convincing fake profiles on social media, dating apps, or job sites to manipulate people.
In a world where fake news is already a significant problem, false identities created using deepfakes have the potential to make the situation even worse. They can be used to disseminate harmful information, control public opinion, and create chaos.
Another potential danger of deepfake-induced identity misappropriation on a larger scale is its potential use in cyber warfare. With the increasing use of technology in national security, the falsified identities of military personnel can be used to influence decision-making, disrupt supply chains, and cause physical harm to infrastructure.
The potential use cases of deepfakes are vast, but so are the dangers, and identity theft is definitely the least of them. As this technology becomes more advanced, it is crucial to stay vigilant and aware of its implications for our society.
Click here to find out more about the potential dangers of deepfake tech.
What’s the Defense Playbook Against Deepfake-Induced Identity Theft?
Protecting yourself from identity theft using deepfake technology may seem complex, but there are easy steps you can take to mitigate the risk. First and foremost, be vigilant about the information you share online. The internet is a wild place, think twice before posting personal information, such as your full name, address, or financial info on social media or other public platforms.
It is also crucial to regularly monitor your credit reports and financial accounts for any suspicious activity. Look for any unusual transactions, inquiries, or changes to your personal information.
Any suspicious activity should be reported to your financial institution or credit reporting agency right away. And if you’re feeling particularly paranoid, you can always sign up for a credit monitoring service to keep an extra close eye on things.
Financial institutions themselves can also play a critical role in preventing exploitation via deepfakes. They should implement more stringent verification processes for opening new accounts or making significant financial transactions. This could include requiring additional forms of identification or using biometric authentication methods, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning.
If you want to learn how to detect whether a media is a deepfake or not, click here.
To Wrap Up
The use of deepfakes might seem like lighthearted entertainment at first glance, but the potential for malicious use cannot be ignored. As technology advances, so too must our efforts to protect ourselves from identity theft. This is why regulation is extremely important in the long run when it comes to these technologies.
Being proactive and taking steps to protect your digital identity can help you minimize the threat of identity theft. Remember, prevention is key, and the earlier you catch any suspicious activity, the better chance you have of halting potential losses.
As you enjoy the occasional Tiktok videos of fake Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves, it is important to stay vigilant, informed, and one step ahead! But honestly, it’s not all doom and gloom either, as deepfake has positive applications as well.