Protect Yourself from the Fastest-Growing Type of ID Fraud: Synthetic ID Theft

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May 21, 2015 by Lisa Brammer

It seems like every time we turn around our private information has been compromised. If it’s not a data breach, it’s something else. Identity theft is on the rise and it’s a risk we take every time we swipe a credit or debit card, make an online purchase, throw out old financial statements, use unprotected WIFI, or do any number of other activities that take place daily.

Once upon a time, the predominant type of ID theft was “true name” identity theft. This is when the fraudster takes on the victim’s identity—like in the Jason Bateman movie Identity Thief. According to a study by ID Analytics, this type of identity theft now only accounts for about 10-15 percent of all identity fraud.

Synthetic ID theft is now the fastest-growing form of ID theft and according to the Federal Trade Commission it accounts for about 85 percent of all identity fraud. Synthetic ID fraud takes place when fraudsters combine real and fake information to create a brand new person. Typically the thief will use a real Social Security number and combine it with a fake name, birthdate, and address.

Since names, birthdates, and addresses have been changed in synthetic ID thefts and Social Security numbers are the only remaining identifier of the real person, this type of ID theft can go undetected for a long time.

According to an article by certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Lanny Britnell, found on the FTC’s website, synthetic ID theft could trigger the creation of a sub-file on your credit report. This happens when there is additional credit report information tied to your Social Security number, but in someone else’s name and address. The negative information can be linked to you and impact your ability to get credit, but since it is a sub-file and does not show up on your actual credit report, it is difficult to recognize and fraud alert and credit freezes seldom help.

Since real Social Security numbers are used in synthetic ID thefts, it is important to guard your children’s SS numbers along with your own. Children don’t normally have credit reports and certainly don’t worry or check their credit history until they are young adults. This allows identity thieves the ability to go unnoticed for years without fear of reprisal.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones from this type of identity theft? According to an article by Jean Chatzky from, the best defense is an alert offense:

Check your credit report 3 times a year – look for any anomalies or derogatory information you are unaware of

Review your annual Social Security Statement – an inflated income could indicate a thief is earning income using your Social Security number

Pay attention to any mail that comes to your house under a different name – it could mean your address was used as part of the scam or it could indicate their information is so entwined with yours, creditors and others are looking for them through your known address

Monitor your children’s credit reports – children’s SS numbers were included in Anthem’s data breach, don’t assume since kids don’t have credit they aren’t vulnerable

“It used to be that I’d tell people all the bad stuff about identity theft and then cheer them up at the end with 10 things you can do to prevent it,” said Neal O’Farrell, founder of The Identity Theft Council and nationally recognized personal security expert. “We’re running out of things you can do to prevent it. I believe it’s really impossible to stop identity theft, and the focus is really on minimizing the chances it will happen to you, and minimizing the damage and the long-term impact if it does.”

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at, call 877-723-2902 or check out our YouTube video.


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