Synthetic identity fraud (SIF) is a recent phenomenon that scammers have used to circumvent the increasing awareness of traditional identity fraud. Instead of stealing a real person’s identity as with traditional identity fraud, SIF involves creating a new identity using a real social security number with a fictitious name, driver’s license and address. The social security numbers used typically belong to children, allowing the fraud to go undetected because no one monitors kids’ credit. SIF scammers do not expect a quick windfall; they can wait months or even years to legitimize their “new” identity so they can accumulate credit cards and/or bank loans. In 2018, the Federal Reserve reported that the largest synthetic identity ring detected caused $200 million or more in losses from 7,000 synthetic identifications and 25,000 credit cards. Parents are able to request a child’s credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Checking a child’s credit report will require a manual search for files related to the child’s name or Social Security number. Note that children younger than 13 should not have a file with any of the three credit bureaus. If any of the credit bureaus do have a file on a child, and the parent didn’t add them as an authorized user on a credit card or make them a joint account holder, that’s a sure sign of suspicious activity. To date, the real victims of SIFs are financial institutions that issue credit cards or loans with no actual person to trace or collect from. However,  one thing is certain – if fraudsters can find a profitable way to scam individuals through SIF, they will.

Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.