It looks like identity theft fraudsters are at it again. As if “true-name” or traditional identity theft is not bad enough, it looks like “synthetic” identity theft is an even bigger challenge that is wreaking havoc with millions of credit reports across the nation. According to an article published on CBSLA.com, synthetic identity theft is a top concern for law enforcement officials and those who have been victimized.
Where identity theft involves stealing personal identifying information such as a name, birth date or Social Security number (SSN) to gain access to a consumer’s banking or credit information, synthetic identity theft creates entirely new identities and establishes new accounts from fake or incorrect information. (The difference is that in “true-name” identity theft, a person actually exists. With “synthetic” identity theft, the person is not real, but elements of the fake identity can be linked back to a real person.) According to the story, the crime can go undetected for many years because perpetrators may only alter one piece of stolen information, such as a SSN, which may be off by one digit, but can still be linked to a real person.
The article reports that a Marina del Rey man was recently convicted on charges related to “synthetic” identity fraud. The case was the first of its kind in Los Angeles and the second such prosecution in the nation to date. The fraudster pleaded guilty to withdrawing nearly $2 million from banking institutions using bogus business and personal identities. He accomplished the crime multiple times by creating a virtual army of synthetic identities which were used to form fake companies and non-existent customers who made bogus charges for the companies. (I guess he believed in “fake it till you make it.”)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has identified “synthetic” identity fraud as the fastest-growing type of ID fraud in the United States. It has apparently surpassed “true-name” identity fraud, which is attributed to 85 percent of all identity fraud. One of the ways to avoid being victimized by this latest trend in fraud is to check annual Social Security statements to make sure reported income figures are not greater than what was earned. Another tip is to be wary of any mail received at your home addressed to someone other than yourself. Remember to stay vigilant and protect your personal identification information to prevent being victimized.