At the end of June of 2022, the FBI issued a public service announcement, stating that the agency has seen a rise in complaints about people using deepfakes and stolen PII to apply for remote work jobs. By all accounts, the candidate being interviewed appears to be a legitimate applicant. However, relying on reports from victims, background checks, and syncing issues, prospective employers are able to determine that the candidate is not who they say they are.
Although legislation has been introduced to establish criminal penalties for deepfakes, federal laws do not explicitly prohibit them. However, prosecutors often seek charges under broader statutes such as identity theft and wire fraud. These convictions can result in substantial prison terms and/or significant fines.
The Issue with Deepfakes and Stolen Personal Identification Information
A recent public service announcement (“PSA”) from the FBI indicates that numerous companies have received job submissions from and interviewed individuals misrepresenting themselves on applications and in virtual meetings. The individuals are applying for positions in fields requiring access to sensitive customer and employee data, as well as confidential company information. This has caused industry-wide concerns that the candidate’s ulterior motives are to gain access to – and surreptitiously use – sensitive customer information for financial or other gain.
What Are Deepfakes, and Are They Illegal?
Deepfakes are altered videos or recordings that are manipulated to make it appear as though a particular individual is depicted doing or saying something when in reality they are not.
A deepfake is created using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The individual making the video inputs hundreds of thousands of images of the targeted person into an app. The app processes those images and imposes them frame-by-frame on a video of the creator’s choosing.
To illustrate, suppose someone wants to create a video of a celebrity making a statement about a particular social issue. The celebrity has not actually said anything about the issue, but the creator has made their own video themselves talking about it. They take their homemade video and use machine learning to swap their face with the chosen celebrity’s. Thus, it seems that the celebrity is saying what the creator actually said.
Deepfakes can be very convincing, but they are not infallible. According to the FBI’s PSA, companies became aware that the person being interviewed was not who they said they were because of mismatched audio. For instance, the individual’s lip movemenst did not correspond to what was being said, or the candidate is observed coughing or sneezing on the video but no corresponding sounds are heard.
What Is Identity Theft, and Is It Illegal?
Identity theft involves unlawfully acquiring, possessing, or using the personal identification information of another individual. This type of conduct can be prosecuted under various federal statutes, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C § 1028 – prohibits knowingly using, transferring, possessing, or producing a falsified identification document. The offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1028A – prohibits transferring, possessing, or using the identification of another without consent to further a federal crime. A conviction can result in 2 years of imprisonment in addition to the sentence imposed for the underlying offense.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1343 – prohibits using any means of electronic communication to further a scheme to defraud. The penalties include up to 20 years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
Investigating alleged cybercrimes takes a considerable amount of time and resources. Although the FBI did not indicate that federal prosecution was underway against any of the candidates who misrepresented themselves in applications and interviews, criminal charges may still be possible.
Contact Our Firm Today
Cybercrimes are commonly facilitated through complex and technical schemes, which present unique challenges for courts, juries and litigators alike. Individuals who are under investigation or have already been charged with such offenses need counsel who have the requisite knowledge and experience in defending these cases. The Attorneys at Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C., are skilled cyber litigators who know how to approach and build defenses for these cases.
To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, please call us at (888) 694-4645 or submit an online contact form today.