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Synthetic identities: more real than you think

  • Author:zz
  • Source:zz
  • Release on:2017-08-30
This is a guest post by Ryan Wilk, vice president of customer success at NuData Security, a MasterCard company.
When a family member dies, there are myriad things to look after from closing bank accounts, sorting belongings and notifying everyone they did business with. It would feel like the worst that could happen just did – until you find out that your elderly relative had defrauded companies and individuals for hundreds of thousands of dollars!
While that may sound like a ridiculous movie plot, this scenario is becoming reality more often than you think. To identity thieves, obituaries are nothing more than another source of data.
Synthetic identity fraud is a rising trend, one that has the potential to threaten the CNP industry, where fraud exposure is expected to hit $71 billion annually by 2020.
Bad actors access genuine identity data, either through hacking or purchase on the Dark Web, and use it to build artificial identity profiles. One common ploy is to access social security numbers (SSNs) of children through school or health insurance records filled out by parents. Another means is to access SSNs of deceased people (known as ghosting), with no one available to contradict the usage.
Using children’s information is advantageous to bad actors as the crime may not be discovered for many years when the then-young adult applies for credit and is denied based on “past” fraudulent behavior. Unfortunately, we won’t know that magnitude of this damage for another 10 or 20 years.
Synthetic identity fraud can also be created via collusion schemes, called furnishing. Fraudsters set up a company with the soul purpose of making sales to synthetic identities they have created themselves. An “applicant” synthetic identity applies for and is granted credit for the purchase of a high-end product from the “furnishing” merchant. Each month the “furnishing” merchant reports an on-time payment from the synthetic identity. This continually boosts the credit score of the synthetic identity and it can eventually be used for other financial fraud once the bad actor knows the identity has value.