Synthetic Identity Theft – a New Spin on Old Crime

November 11, 2007

We’re familiar with traditional identity theft. Someone steals your personal information and opens lines of credit in your name. There’s a new spin on that now that’s harder to detect – Synthetic Identity Theft.

Synthetic identity theft happens when a thief steals bits and pieces of info from different people and creates a whole new identity. This usually happens when your social security number is used with a different name and date of birth. This is much more difficult to detect because of all the mismatched pieces of information. It can go on for years before you become aware of it.

Using your social security number, thief can open new bank accounts, credit cards and get a job. Because the only piece of info that matches you is the SSN, these accounts and actions don’t usually show up on your credit report. That’s why it can go on for years without you finding out. All the different pieces of information confuse and pollute the system.

Where is gets serious is when your social security number gets into databases designed to flag criminals. If a background check is ever done, your number shows up and you’re accused of the crime. Just because it has a different name attached to the number won’t automatically prove your innocence. You’ll probably be accused of using an alias. You could easily be turned down for a job even if you’re able to prove it wasn’t you. An employer may just not want to take the time to listen to you use the TODDI defense – "The Other Dude Did It".

If someone created an identity using your social security number and was accused of murder, your name would pop up in that database search. Ouch…. If taxes haven’t been paid on any income for your number, you could be hounded by the IRS for back taxes and fees. Double-ouch…

Here’s a couple of things to look for to see if you’ve been victimized. Don’t blow them off. Start digging to find out what’s going on.

  • Look carefully at your yearly Social Security statement. Make sure there’s not more income reported than you actually earned.
  • You get lots of mail in someone else’s name.




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