Syntethic Identity Theft: What it is and How it Works

Table of Contents

Synthetic identity fraud

Synthetic identity fraud is a pervasive issue in today’s growing digital society. Fraudsters exploit loopholes to create fictitious identities for fraudulent activities, causing significant harm to their victims.

What is synthetic identity theft? 

Synthetic identity theft involves the creation of fictitious identities by combining real and fabricated information. Unlike traditional identity theft, where a victim’s personal identifying information is directly stolen and misused, synthetic identity theft creates entirely new personas that can evade detection for extended periods. Because these fraudsters meticulously blend legitimate details with fabricated ones, the new synthetic identities appear completely genuine, enabling them to carry out various fraudulent activities such as opening bank accounts, applying for loans, or obtaining credit cards. The complexity of synthetic identity theft lies in its ability to circumvent traditional identity verification measures, as the fabricated identities lack a direct link to a real person.

What methods do fraudsters use to create a synthetic identity?  

Fraudsters employ various techniques to create synthetic identities, including data manipulation and identity stitching. Data manipulation involves altering or fabricating personal information, such as social security numbers, dates of birth, or addresses, to create synthetic identities that resemble real individuals. On the other hand, identity stitching combines legitimate elements from multiple identities to construct a new persona. These methods enable fraudsters to create synthetic identities with plausible backgrounds and credit histories, making them less susceptible to detection by traditional verification processes. Moreover, advancements in technology and the widespread availability of personal data on the internet have facilitated the creation of synthetic identities, allowing fraudsters to exploit vulnerabilities in data systems and evade detection more effectively.

What is the difference between identity theft and synthetic identity theft? 

The primary difference lies in the creation of identities. Traditional identity theft involves the direct misuse of a victim’s information, such as stealing their social security number or credit card details, to impersonate them and carry out fraudulent transactions. In contrast, synthetic identity theft fabricates entirely new personas using a combination of real and fake details, making detection more difficult. While traditional identity theft targets specific individuals and their existing accounts, synthetic identity theft creates new identities that may not have any direct link to a real person. As a result, synthetic identities can remain dormant for extended periods, allowing fraudsters to build credit histories and carry out more substantial fraud schemes without immediate detection.

The dangers of synthetic identity fraud

Synthetic identity fraud poses significant risks to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions. If not caught in time, it leads to financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory scrutiny. Victims of synthetic identity fraud may also suffer long-term consequences, such as damage to their credit profiles and reputations. Businesses and financial institutions, on the other hand, face substantial losses from fraudulent activities, as well as potential regulatory fines and reputational damage. Moreover, synthetic identity fraud can undermine trust in financial systems and erode confidence in the security of personal information, impacting the overall integrity of the financial ecosystem.

Consider a scenario where a fraudster combines a legitimate social security number with fictitious details to create a synthetic identity. This enables them to obtain credit cards and loans before disappearing, leaving financial institutions to deal with the aftermath. In this scenario, the fraudster leverages a combination of real and fake information to create a synthetic identity. The fraudster creates a seemingly authentic persona by using a legitimate social security number and fabricating other details, such as name and address. Their ultimate goal is to make payments and disappear, leaving financial institutions to deal with the repercussions.

How to identify and protect against synthetic identity fraud

As you can tell, synthetic identity fraud is an alarming issue. Combatting synthetic identity fraud requires proactive measures such as advanced data analytics and identity verification solutions. Businesses and individuals can detect and prevent fraudulent activities by leveraging technology and its intelligent prevention strategies. Advanced data analytics can help identify patterns and anomalies indicative of synthetic identity fraud, while identity verification solutions can authenticate individuals’ identities more effectively. Additionally, implementing tight authentication protocols and deploying advanced identity verification technologies can fortify defenses against synthetic identity fraud and mitigate the risk of financial losses and reputational damage.

What about the victim of identity theft?

Victims of identity theft face numerous challenges, including financial repercussions and navigating the complexities of credit reporting. Providing comprehensive support services is crucial to aiding their recovery journey. Along with financial losses, they face challenges in reclaiming their identities and restoring their credit profiles. Navigating the intricacies of credit reporting and resolving fraudulent accounts can be daunting, requiring patience and persistence. However, providing victims access to comprehensive support services, such as credit monitoring and identity theft resolution assistance, can help alleviate some of the burdens associated with identity theft and facilitate their recovery process.

Synthetic identity fraud is a complex issue that requires dynamic and proactive measures to combat effectively. By understanding fraudsters’ methods, recognizing the differences between traditional and synthetic identity theft, and implementing prevention strategies, individuals and businesses can safeguard against this threat.


How can individuals and businesses protect against synthetic identity fraud?

Combatting synthetic identity fraud requires proactive measures such as advanced data analytics and identity verification solutions. Individuals can safeguard their personal information by monitoring their accounts regularly, using strong and unique passwords, and being cautious when sharing sensitive data online. Businesses can implement strict authentication protocols and verification technologies, along with educating employees and customers about the risks of synthetic identity fraud.

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What should I do if I suspect synthetic identity fraud?

If you suspect synthetic identity fraud, acting quickly to minimize potential damage is essential. Contact your financial institutions and credit bureaus to report suspicious activity and place fraud alerts on your accounts. Monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions and consider enrolling in identity theft protection services for added security.

Can synthetic identity fraud be prevented entirely?

No, unfortunately, not entirely. However, individuals and businesses can take steps to reduce the risk and mitigate its impact.

How common is synthetic identity fraud?

Synthetic identity fraud has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with fraudsters exploiting vulnerabilities in data systems and leveraging advanced tactics to evade detection. While exact statistics are difficult to determine due to synthetic identity fraud, it remains a significant threat worldwide.

How can I learn more about synthetic identity fraud prevention?

To learn more about synthetic identity fraud prevention, consider consulting with cybersecurity experts, attending industry conferences and workshops, and staying informed about the latest trends and best practices in fraud detection and prevention. Additionally, resources provided by government agencies, financial institutions, and cybersecurity organizations can offer valuable insights and guidance on protecting against synthetic identity fraud.

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