Synthetic fraud

Synthetic fraud is a type of fraud that occurs when someone creates a fake identity by combining real information (such as a Social Security number, or SSN) with fake personal identifiable information (PII) such as birth dates, addresses, or phone numbers. The criminal then uses this synthetic identity to open fraudulent accounts, access credit, and make purchases with no intention of repayment.

Frequently asked questions

How does synthetic identity theft happen?

With synthetic identity theft, bad actors combine real identity information — such as Social Security numbers (SSNs) — with fake names, addresses, and dates of birth to create a new, false identity that isn’t tied to a real person. Then, they apply for and obtain credit and eventually “bust out,” or disappear with no intent to repay the debt.

What are the 5 types of identity theft?

Five common types of identity theft include:

  • Synthetic identity theft: occurs when criminals combine real and fake ID data to create “new” fake identities that they use to apply for credit they don’t intend on repaying.
  • Financial identity theft: occurs when personal data is stolen and used to access banking or credit card data or open new accounts.
  • Medical identity theft: occurs when individuals use someone else’s personal data to obtain medical records or file fraudulent claims.
  • Criminal identity theft: occurs when someone arrested by law enforcement officers uses a stolen ID to mislead officials about their identity.
  • Identity cloning: occurs when someone uses personal information to masquerade as someone else. For example, someone may use a stolen SSN to look for work or to access and modify tax records.

How do you stop synthetic identity theft?

Stopping synthetic identity theft starts by regularly reviewing your personal data for any fraudulent activity. For example, it’s a good idea to monitor your credit reports and closely examine your annual Social Security statement and IRS documentation for any unusual activity. It’s also worth watching for mail that comes to your home with someone else’s name on it — these documents could be intended for fraudsters who have used your address in a synthetic identity scheme.

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