Featured Article

The synthetic ID you can't see

Criminals are using a new form of fraud called credit privacy numbers (CPN) to defraud financial institutions and game credit bureaus. Fraud examiners will have to pool their resources and use investigative skills to connect the dots between credit bureaus and banks, and find new ways to combat this plague.

A call rings out on a police radio: “2-Charlie-34 to any available kilo unit reference a Signal 53 in progress.” In plain language, a patrol officer has just asked to speak with a detective from the economic crimes unit about a fraud in progress. A detective answers, and the officer on the scene tells him that he’s taken a man into custody at an auto dealership for attempting to purchase a vehicle and attain financing using a Social Security number (SSN) in the application that isn’t his.

The detective and his partner respond to the scene. Their initial investigation reveals that the subject has a valid state-issued ID bearing his name, which they confirm through a records check. The dealership provides the detectives a copy of the financing application and a credit report as evidence. The credit report shows that the name and date of birth match the ID and person standing in front of them. The subject’s credit score is in the high 700s, and he has multiple open accounts with varying lengths of reporting history.

Additional research shows that the suspect has a different SSN than what’s listed on the credit report and finance application. The detectives are unsure of exactly what’s happened, but they know that there’s fraud afoot, so they take the suspect in for questioning.

They begin the interview, and the suspect fills the room with half-truths and misdirection. He first claims the nine-digit number he put on the application is his SSN, but he later says it’s “like an SSN for his business.” However, he has no registered business and no issued Employer Identification Number, so his claims aren’t adding up. The detectives finally confront the suspect with possible identity theft charges, and he shouts, “I didn’t steal anyone’s identity! I just used my CPN!” The detectives play it cool and quickly excuse themselves from the interview room. One detective looks at the other with a curious face and asks, “CPN?”

“You got me. …” the second detective shrugs.

For full access to story, members may sign in here.

Not a member? Click here to Join Now. Or Click here to sign up for a FREE TRIAL.