Understanding Synthetic Identity Fraud

Synthetic identity fraud is a problem that is growing in sophistication, intensity and frequency.  It is easiest to understand the dangers of Synthetic identity fraud when it is compared to traditional identity fraud.

Traditional identity fraud happens when a criminal obtains a real person’s identity to get credit. In this situation, the criminal would have as a minimum, a real person’s name, birth date, place of birth, social security number and maybe the mother’s maiden name. In contrast, synthetic identity fraud happens when a criminal uses information from one person, (perhaps a social security number) and combines it with the information of an imaginary name. The combination of the “real” and “fake” earns the crime the label of “Synthetic Identity Fraud.”

Synthetic profiles are hard to detect because often times the person who had their information stolen is not immediately impacted by the behavior of the criminal. This is because the thief diligently pays the monthly fraudulent charges in order to build up the victim's credit line, then maxes out the credit card(s) limit before disappearing.

Businesses and individuals should take action to reduce or detect this challenging crime. All individuals should check their credit reports regularly to insure unsuspected activity is not happening under their name. Information such as, drivers license numbers, passport numbers, social security numbers and other personally identifiable information should be protected. Businesses need to increase the scrutiny of people opening new accounts by checking multiple databases to validate the identity of a person who is applying for the account.

It takes the cooperation of all citizens to reduce this illegal activity. If you have questions about Synthetic Identity Fraud or would like a Crime Prevention Specialist to speak to your community, group or organization about frauds, scams and identity theft or any of the other topics that we offer, call the Community Response Unit at 239-258-3280.