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Synthetic Identity Fraud: Detection and Prevention

open security lock on credit cards with computer keyboard

With all of the recent cyber attacks on major companies, from Equifax to Yahoo, it is more important than ever to know how to protect your information online. One of the most dangerous forms of fraud to be aware of is synthetic identity fraud.

What is Synthetic Identity Fraud?

Synthetic identity fraud (SIF) involves the creation of a fictitious identity often using a stolen Social Security Number (SSN) with a combination of real and fabricated information. To delay detection, many organized rings target SSNs that are not actively being used, such as those of children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

Synthetic identity fraud is different than traditional identity fraud, but is just as damaging. During traditional theft, a perpetrator uses your information to impersonate you. With SIF, a thief takes pieces of your information to create a new identity – there is no impersonation involved. Nevertheless, when thieves create these fictitious identities, they can be used to apply for credit, open deposit accounts, purchase insurance policies, enroll in medical benefits and even obtain a driver’s license or passport.

Why is SIF Difficult to Detect?

Computer systems that detect identity theft are designed to match multiple pieces of personal information to establish an identity (such as name, address and SSN). If the system does not get a match on all of these elements, it moves on. Because SIF combines actual and fictitious data, traditional detection systems may not detect an issue.

When a SSN has been stolen, it is easily detected by a collection agency that performs a search solely on SSN, but if the name and address have been fabricated, it’s difficult to trace back to the criminal.

What are the Dangers of SIF?

Because SIF is difficult to detect, the thieves have an extended timeframe to make fraudulent purchases or open fraudulent lines of credit. The longer it takes to detect, the more damage can be done to an unsuspecting victim. Theft examples include:

Immediate Credit Max. Thieves open credit accounts and immediately extract the maximum amount of credit possible from institutions, retailers and other lenders.

Sleeper Accounts. These accounts may be established right away and kept in good standing to increase the credit limit, but over time are allowed to default. The longer the account exists, it makes the fictitious cardholder seem real and eligible for additional lines of credit.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Always shred documents that contain personal account numbers or your SSN.
  • Store official identification documents in a secure lock-box (SSN Card, passport, etc.).
  • Obtain a lockable mailbox.
  • Confirm the accuracy of your income on your annual Social Security statement.

In most cases, synthetic identity theft goes undetected for years. And victims only find out after the thief defaults on making payments and they start receiving harassing calls from debt collectors, based upon their SSN. To protect yourself from these threats, look for warning signs and take precautions with your information.

If you suspect fraud or identity theft has occurred on your Revere Bank Account, immediately contact us by phone at (866) 920-8185 or by email.

This publication does not constitute legal, accounting or other professional advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Websites not belonging to this organization are provided for information only. No endorsement is implied.

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