LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Identity theft is an ever-evolving crime. Scammers are now combining information from multiple individuals to invent a false identity called synthetic identity theft.
As credit bureaus and individuals catch on to the schemes of identity thieves, the con-artists simply modify their tactics. Synthetic identity theft is so hard to detect, you might be a victim and not even know it.
Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said, “Scammers just alter their techniques and use different ways to come across our personal information and our financial information. Synthetic identity theft is basically taking information that might belong to multiple people and putting it all together as one and creating one identity and trying to apply for different lines of credit.”
The BBB says scammers pull together a stolen social security number, the address of an abandoned property, and a fake name and birth date. Using that information, the scammer applies for a credit card.
“They might take one person A’s social security number, person B’s name and person C’s date of birth, and they create it as though it’s one person and the social security number doesn’t match the name and date of birth; however, they’ve just created this new “synthetic identity” that they attempt to open different lines of credit with and apply for credit cards that they can hopefully max out and purchase a whole bunch of things with,” explained Babin.
Experts say intially, the scammer will be declined since they don’t have a credit profile, but this creates a record of a “person” that doesn’t exist. But, over time, the scammer will build up a credit history.
“We encourage you to keep your information closely guarded, especially your social security number, because a lot of times you don’t know that your social security number was compromised until you see an account or something you’re unfamiliar with on your credit report or you get contacted by creditors saying you owe money for something you weren’t aware of.”
The BBB has these tips to protect yourself from synthetic identity theft:
- Minimize your exposure. Don’t give out your social security number if it isn’t absolutely necessary. When a business or medical office asks for this information, don’t be afraid to ask them how they will protect your information.
- Protect your child’s personal information. A child’s identity is appealing to scammers due to their clean slate.
- Keep an eye on your communications– monitor any mail, phone calls, or other communications you receive.
If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.