David Maimon, a criminologist and professor at Georgia State University, recently uncovered an online video posted by a multibillion-dollar global criminal organization that has been stealing from the U.S. government since 2020, providing other criminals with generative artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
The 58-second footage, which was reportedly intended for the dark web, shows a man identified only as “Sanchez” speaking to another person who is seen digging a grave behind him while dressed in all black and wearing a black skeleton mask.
Maimon provided context for the video in a LinkedIn post.
He reported that this was “[an] update to some of his concerned customers who haven’t seen him on the online underground market for few weeks.”
According to Haywood Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ Government Group, these organizations are responsible for the majority of the pandemic fraud that cost the nation billions of dollars, and they are now employing generative AI to remain covert while growing their criminal empire.
“When you think of pandemic fraud, and modern-day cybercriminal fraud targeting the government, you usually think of low-level fraudsters acting alone,” Talcove said.
One example he used was how an online criminal had submitted at least a dozen unemployment applications during the pandemic using a plethora of stolen identities.
“In reality, those who commit government fraud and get caught are the tip of the iceberg,” Talcove said. “They’re like the street-level drug dealers who get arrested.”
“There’s a whole machine behind them that, at this point, closely resembles the 20th century Italian mob, or modern day drug cartels,” he continued.
International cybergangs from countries like Russia, Nigeria, and China, among hundreds of others, have operated a fraud-as-a-service sector on the dark web for years.
Mega Darknet Market, which Talcove described as one of the largest businesses in the world, is shown in the posted video.
According to Talcove, the video provided a first look into how these businesses sell other criminals “mule accounts,” which are bank accounts created from stolen identities, as well as generative AI and “deepfake” capabilities.
“This video is proof of what I’ve been saying, that there are some very organized institutions empowering low-level fraudsters from all over the world,” Talcove said.
These global groups also reportedly supply other criminals with the AI technology and tools they need to carry out “sextortion” schemes, which often target pre-teens or young adults and have resulted in suicides in many cases.
“This is very important trend that has largely gone unnoticed,” Talcove continued. “The pandemic prompted a transformation of America’s criminals and gangs from gun-running and drug dealing to unemployment fraud, SNAP fraud and PPP fraud… Those on the front-lines, doing the dirty work can make millions. The fraud-as-a-service organizations that give the criminals these the tools, data and means to do so are making far more than that.”