Identity thieves continue to find new ways to commit fraud and their methods are becoming more difficult to track down. The latest technique is called “synthetic identity theft.”
Synthetic identity theft is a type of fraud that uses various bits of disparate stolen data from different people (e.g. Social Security numbers, names, addresses, etc...) to essentially create a new fake, or “synthetic,” identity that the thief then uses to build a credit record. Because the data that is used to create the fake identity comes from different people who are located in different places, spotting the criminal activity and tracking down the thief is difficult. Adding to this difficulty is the Social Security Administration’s randomizing of new social security numbers in place since 2011 (versus the prior method of assigning numbers according to where a person lived) and the loosening of credit restrictions since the recovery of the economy.
Another unique facet of this form of identity theft is that a thief can actually build a solid credit record for the synthetic identity over an extended length of time. This can then be used to make larger purchases, take out larger loans, etc... This is one reason why children are often ideal targets. Similarly, older individuals who may not use their credit too often are also attractive targets according to the Government Accountability Office.
The Federal Trade Commission claims that synthetic identity theft is currently the fastest growing form of identity theft and the most difficult to detect. It rose 68% between 2015 and 2016.
Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself against synthetic identity theft:
- Give out your social security number as little as possible.
- Do not include your SSN in the forms you fill out at the doctor’s office. They don’t usually don’t require it.
- Research how to freeze your child’s credit. In Virginia, credit bureaus are required to do so if you request it.
- Regularly check your credit reports.
If you have any questions, please contact us.