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Fraudsters Resorting to 'Synthetic Identity Fraud to Commit Financial Crimes

Synthetic identity fraud can include establishing a distinct fake persona by combining existing personal identifying information from many victims.

 

Identity theft is still a common tactic for hackers to damage the credit score. To steal even more and avoid discovery, an increasing number of fraudsters are turning to "synthetic identity fraud," which includes constructing spoof personalities to deceive financial institutions.

Michael Timoney, VP of Secure Payments at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston stated, “This is growing. It’s got big numbers tied to $20 billion(Opens in a new window) plus (in losses), and we’re not really seeing a drop in it. Due to the pandemic, the numbers have gotten even higher."

Timoney described how the threat exploits a critical vulnerability in the US banking system at the RSA conference in San Francisco: when a customer applies for a credit card or a loan, many businesses do not always verify their identification. Timoney defined synthetic identity fraud as the use of multiple pieces of personally identifiable information to create a totally new person. 

He added, “It’s different from traditional identity theft because if someone stole my identity they would be acting in my name. I would go into my bank account and see my money is gone or I’d try to log into my account but I’d be locked out.” 

“Because of data breaches, there is so much information out there for sale. In other cases, the crooks will alter or make up the Social Security number and address data entirely, hoping the companies won't catch on. Once you apply for credit with your brand new identity, there is no credit file out there for you, but one gets created immediately. So right off the bat, you now have a credit file associated with this synthetic. So it sort of validates the identity. Now you got an identity and it has a credit record."  

The hacker will then strive to improve the credit rating of the spoof identity in order to secure larger loans or credit card limits before bailing without ever paying the lending agency. He added that the fraudster will settle their charges and request further credit. 

According to Timoney, the scammers have also been using the fraudulent personas to seek for unemployment benefits and obtain loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, which began during the pandemic to assist businesses in paying their employees. 

How to stop synthetic identity fraud?

To combat synthetic identity fraud, the United States is developing (Opens in a new window) the Electronic Consent Based Social Security Number Verification Service, which can determine whether a Social Security number matches one of these on record. However, Timoney stated that the system will only be offered to financial institutions and will not be open to other industries that provide credit to clients. 

In response, Timoney emphasized that it is critical for businesses to be on the lookout for warning indicators linked with synthetic identity fraud. This might include inconsistencies in the applicant's background. For example, consider a person who is 60 years old but has never had a credit history while having lived in the United States their whole life or an 18-year-old with a credit score of at least 800. 

Another method for detecting synthetic identity theft is to see if a loan application has any confirmed family members. One should be looking at a lot more than just the name, address, and Social Security number.
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Cyber Fraud

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Identity Fraud

Spoofing

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