Syn­thetic ID theft a new trick for scam­mers

Lethbridge Herald - - Health/lifestyles | Community Events -

Scam­mers are now com­bin­ing in­for­ma­tion from mul­ti­ple in­di­vid­u­als to in­vent a false iden­tity, a tech­nique called “syn­thetic” iden­tity theft. It’s so hard to de­tect, you might be a vic­tim and not even know it.

How the Scam Works

Scam­mers pull to­gether a stolen So­cial In­sur­ance Num­ber (of­ten be­long­ing to a mi­nor or some­one with no credit his­tory), the ad­dress of an aban­doned prop­erty, and a fake name and birth date. Us­ing this in­for­ma­tion, the scam­mer ap­plies for a credit card. Ini­tially, they will be de­clined since they don’t have a credit pro­file, but this cre­ates a record of a “per­son” that doesn’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist.

Next, the scam­mer adds that “per­son” to one or more le­git­i­mate ac­counts. Over time, the scam­mer builds up a credit his­tory. They may even make charges and pay­ments over sev­eral years, un­til they can qual­ify for large lines of credit. Once they are ap­proved for a high line of credit, they do what is called a “bust-out.” The con artist charges their credit cards to the limit, pays noth­ing, dis­cards the iden­tity and dis­ap­pears.

If your So­cial In­sur­ance Num­ber (SIN) has been used in syn­thetic iden­tity theft, it will be dif­fi­cult to de­tect. Neg­a­tive credit re­ports will be tied to your So­cial In­sur­ance Num­ber, but not your name, phone num­ber and ad­dress. This means fraud alerts, credit mon­i­tor­ing and credit freezes won’t stop the scam­mers or alert you to what is hap­pen­ing. How­ever, un­paid debts left by the scam­mer can af­fect your abil­ity to take out loans or credit. Also, jilted cred­i­tors will even­tu­ally track the debts back to the So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber and, ul­ti­mately, its real owner.

How to Pro­tect Your­self from Syn­thetic Iden­tity Theft

Min­i­mize your ex­po­sure. Don’t give out your So­cial Se­cu­rity or So­cial In­sur­ance num­ber if it isn’t ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. When a busi­ness, med­i­cal of­fice or in­di­vid­ual asks for this in­for­ma­tion, don’t be afraid to ask them why they need it and how they will pro­tect your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

Pro­tect your child’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. A child’s iden­tity is ap­peal­ing to scam­mers due to their clean, blank slate.

Keep an eye on your com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Mon­i­tor any mail, phone calls, email or other com­mu­ni­ca­tions you re­ceive. Be alert if some­thing ar­rives out of the blue or doesn’t make sense. If you re­ceive any mail or phone calls re­gard­ing you or your child that seem like a red flag, fol­low up right away.

See more tips about pro­tect­ing your iden­tity at

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