Identity Fraud More Prevalent Than You'd Imagine

Idenitity TheftForget 101 Dalmatians, try 101 Social Security numbers. That's how many Laura from East St. Louis, Mo., has used on various applications, along with nine different last names and eight birth dates. And even that number pales compared to Thomas from Philadelphia, who has used 165 Social Security numbers and 44 birth dates. Welcome to the world of repeat fraudsters.

At least 16% of Americans have engaged in some kind of identity fraud, according to a new study by consumer risk management company ID Analytics. The study examined Social Security numbers, names and dates of birth on more than 1 billion applications for products and services where identity information was required. Matching common aspects and variations on personal information, the study was able to identify 300 million unique individuals. Of those, 45 million had fraudulent manipulations.

"I am surprised at how high the number is," Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, the lead researcher for the study, told DailyFinance. Identity manipulation occurs when someone changes a digit on their Social Security number, alters a date of birth, or uses a false name.

The majority of these manipulated identities are caught in the application process for cell phones, auto loans or other purchases that require this information, Coggeshall said. But the Lauras and Thomases of this world continue to try, hoping they'll get lucky eventually. And that can mean trouble for you.

"When fraudsters do this, they are inadvertently walking on someone else's Social Security number," Coggeshall said. "Now that bad record is now tied to him [the consumer]."

Identity fraud takes place for any number of reasons, including bad credit or criminal history. Coggeshall says small variations on an existing true identity is easier than stealing a stranger's whole identity, which is one reason it is so prevalent. In addition to posing a threat to individuals, he says it also adds pressure on prices and fees, sending them ever upward, for services that require applications.

The study also found that the prevalence of manipulated identities was higher in the South and Northeast, and some specific cities including Houston, Detroit and New York.



Five Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself

1. Know the Law
: Manipulating your personal information, like date of birth or social security number, is illegal. More than 10 million married couples have attempted to share a Social Security number between spouses, according to the study. That's not legal either. You're married, not the same person.

2. Check Your Credit Report for Abnormal Activity: You hear it over and over again, but the best place to see what is happening with your credit is by checking your credit report. Get yours for free at Annualcreditreport.com.

3. Learn Your Risk:
If you're unsure how exposed you are to identity fraud, you can test your level of risk with a free online tool like MyIDScore.com.

4. Protect Your Personal Information:
Signing up with in an identity-theft protection service may be overkill (and a poor investment), but it's vital to stay vigilant and protect your personal information. Only provide it when it's necessary and to reputable businesses.

5. Take Action:
If you think you have been a victim of identity fraud or theft, learn more about how you can deter, detect and defend yourself against a fraudster at the FTC's resource site.

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46 Comments

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amato3035

not so ITS THE PURCHASER WHO MORE THAN LIKELY GETS HURT

July 01 2011 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rini1946

I did something that did cost me anything I emailed the three credit reporting agency and shut my account down people can put stuff in like credit card activity but noone can get any info out. I tried it went to goodyear to get tires and they asked me if i wanted a credit card I said yes (just to see how it works) they said no. My credit rating is great. The only minor problem if you want to open a credit card or buy a car or house or anything that they need credit report for you need to ask them which one they use and it cost you 10 dollars to open it up. after you get the loan email them and close it up. So hopefully no one will be buying a car or gettting a credit card with my name.

June 30 2011 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank

It sure seems there is a whole lot of "worst" areas along the Mexican border...Hmmm..I wonder what that means??????

June 30 2011 at 8:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sjoberdix

The only way to protect yourself a 100 % is cash only. The banking system is nothing a legalize ponzi scam, where bankers and thier bought politicians get rich.

June 30 2011 at 6:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
keithcalypso2

SEND THOSE CAUGHT STEALING IDENTITY TO PRISON FOR TEN OR FIFTEEN YEARS, SEIZE THEIR ASSETS ,REVOKE THEIR D/L FOR 5TO 8 YEARS AFTER PRISON GIVE THEM A JOB AS A GRAVE DIGGER , ON PAY DAY GIVE THEM AN IOU SLIP, TO A SOUP KITCHEN , THAT WILL TEACH THEM

June 30 2011 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stripedbass7

HEALTHNET HAD ITS HARDDISKS" STOLEN".....? , WITH ITS POLICYHOLDERS COMPLETE" INFORMATION....... THATS HOW ALL MY PERSONAL INFORMATION WAS LET LOOOOOOSE ! STRANGER THAN THAT : IS HOW THEY LOST OTHER POLICY HOLDERS PERSONAL INFO, IN CONNETTICUTT ? WHEN THEIR HARDDISKS WERE STOLEN THE FIRST TIME ! BUT THEY WAITED 6 MONTHS TO TELL THEIR INSURED

MAYBE IT WOULD BE WISE FOR HEALTHNET TO FIGURE OUT WHY, THEIR HARDDISKS WERE STOLEN TWICE ! YOUD THINK THEYD HAVE SOME SECURITY AFTER THE 1ST TIME. THATS MILLIONS OF SOC. SECURITY NUMBERS

June 30 2011 at 2:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Aramis1951

@showleers : you must take a lifetime supply of Stupid Pills EVERY MORNING if you think Citi is anything but what it is : A BANKRUPT BANK, levitated by nothing but smoke and mirrors and prestidigitation on a global scale.

June 29 2011 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aramis1951

"Identity theft" is ANOTHER manufactured FEAR to scare people into buying something they probably don't need and will never use. When the Mob or the Mafia does stuff like this, it's called a "protection racket" . But businesses who have bribed enough of the right people in politics and the media to beat the part-with-your-money-on-something-ridiculous drum 24 x 7 until they have the typical brainless American scared stupid get away Scot free.

June 29 2011 at 11:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
fakeconomics1

Let us focus on IDENTITY FRAUD------Where and How the identities being stolen?------It is from your BANKS-YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNTS---AOL-----PUFF HOST-----and YOUR EMPLOYERS!!! Kust to let you know that it is ILLEGAL to sell your personal information!! It will be ground for class action law suits!

June 29 2011 at 9:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
fakeconomics1

Mike---I am sorry I was kidding---But please be safe----I consider you as my kid brother

June 29 2011 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply