What is Synthetic Identity Theft?
Synthetic Identity Theft is when a criminal combines one or many pieces of your identity with one or many pieces of someone else’s identity to commit fraud. Thieves using this highly-sophisticated type of theft will usually build credit and make large purchases, leaving a trail of debt in the name of the person whose Social Security number was used.
Examples of this are:
- A thief uses a piece of your personally identifiable information, (e.g. Social Security number) and combines it with a second person’s stolen personally identifiable information, such as address, to create an entirely new identity and commit fraud.
- A thief obtains a loan using a made up name, their anonymous P.O. Box, and your Social Security number. Because credit is tracked almost solely by Social Security numbers, the loan appears to be yours.
Out of all the types of identity theft, Synthetic Identity theft takes the longest amount of time to detect and track. This is because identity thieves will usually prey on the most vulnerable demographics, children and the elderly. Children are targets because they have a brand new Social and are unlikely to monitor their credit until they are young adults. The elderly are targeted because they typically live on a fixed income with minimal to no debt and are not as likely to monitor their credit or statements regularly.
Below are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones:
- Monitor your credit reports for free on www.AnnualCreditReport.com. We recommend pulling your free report from one agency every four months so you can proactively monitor your credit year-round without incurring any fees.
- Freeze your credit to keep criminals from taking advantage of your buying power. When setting this up, you will receive a unique pin code for each bureau that you can use to “thaw” your credit when you need to make a large purchase that requires a credit run.
- Turn on Two-Factor Authentication for your financial accounts. An example of this is when you log into your bank account, you first enter a password (step one) then you are prompted to answer a security question (step two).
- Monitor your financial account statements and health insurance explanation of benefits on a regular basis. If you notice any suspicious or unusual activity, contact your financial institutions and/or insurance provider immediately.
- Store all documents containing your personally identifiable information in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe, locked file cabinet or a safe deposit box.