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Stopping Synthetic Identity Fraud Before It Starts

The CU Times recently reported on a nationwide synthetic identity fraud ring impacting several major credit unions and banks.

Investigators for the Federal and New York governments charged 13 people and three businesses in connection to the nationwide scheme. The members of the crime ring were able to fraudulently obtain more than $1 million in loans and credit cards from 10 credit unions and nine banks.

Synthetic Identity Fraud Can’t Be Ignored

Fraud was on an upward trend before the pandemic and does not show signs of slowing. Opportunistic criminals have taken advantage of the shift to digital interactions, loosening of some controls in online transactions, and the desire of financial institutions to maintain their portfolios – seeking new ways to perpetrate fraud.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many financial institutions shifted their attention from existing plans for the year. In some cases they deprioritized plans to review and revise their fraud prevention strategy. Over the last several months, the focus swung to moving processes online, maintaining portfolios, easing customer friction, and dealing with IT resource constraints. While these shifts made sense due to rapidly changing conditions, they may have created a more enticing environment for fraudsters.

This recent synthetic identity fraud ring was in place long before COVID-19. That said, it still highlights the need to have a prevention and detection plan in place. Financial institutions want to maintain their portfolios and their customer or member experience. However, they can’t afford to table fraud plans in the meantime.

“72% of FI executives surveyed believe synthetic identity fraud to be more challenging than identity theft. This is due to the fact that it is harder to detect—either crime rings nurture accounts for months or years before busting out with six-figure losses, or they are misconstrued as credit losses, and valuable agent time is spent trying to collect from someone who doesn’t exist,” says Julie Conroy, Research Director at Aite Group.

Prevention and Detection

Putting the fraud strategy discussion on hold—even in the short term—could open up a financial institution to potential risk at time when cost control and portfolio maintenance are watch words. Canny fraudsters are on the lookout for financial institutions with fewer protections. Waiting to implement or update a fraud strategy could open a business up to increased fraud losses.

Now is the time to review your synthetic identity fraud prevention and detection strategies, and Experian can help. Our innovative new tool in the fight against synthetic identity fraud helps financial institutions stop fraudsters at the door.

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