Fed warns on impact of 'Synthetic identity' theft


The US Federal Reserve says a new crime trend has seen fraudsters combine a fake name and other fictional personal data such as a date of birth with a true Social Security number.

Called Synthetic Identity Fraud, the Fed wrote in a report published this week that it is increasingly impacting on the U.S. Payment System, which it calls the “fastest growing type of financial crime in the United States.”

According to the report, synthetic ID fraud cost U.S. lenders $6 billion in 2016. Synthetic ID fraud is the fastest-growing type of financial crime in the United States, accounting for 10-15% of charge-offs in a typical unsecured lending portfolio, according to McKinsey. Perhaps the most staggering finding is that 85-95% of credit applicants identified as potential synthetic identities are not flagged by traditional fraud models.

Synthetic identities tend to be more prevalent in the United States than in other countries because identification in the United States relies heavily on static personally identifiable information (PII), including Social Security numbers (SSNs).

The U.S. Department of Justice last month unsealed indictments against 11 defendants accused of using synthetic identities to make $3 million in charges that were never repaid. With fake identities, defendants allegedly obtained credit cards that were then used to purchase residential properties in Queens, New York and set up shell companies.

Frances Zelazny, a digital identity expert who currently serves as Head of Strategy for behavioral biometrics leader BioCatch, notes that user behavior is an untapped goldmine that can reveal the use of stolen and synthetic ID in the online application process.  AI-driven applications like behavioral biometrics analyze various cognitive attributes associated with data familiarity, application fluency and computer proficiency to uncover potential fraud.

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