A report published by identity intelligence research organisation ID Analytics last month indicates that there are approximately ten thousand different identity theft rings operating in the US. The organisation examined over a billion credit card, store card and wireless service applications over a four-year period in order to arrive at this figure. Its algorithm picked up on the presence of identity thieves by searching for constantly changing addresses or discrepancies in personal information, which are red flags indicating fraud.

ID Analytics concluded that certain areas of the country have far higher concentrations of identity thieves than others. The most popular states for these crooks are thought to be North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Delaware. The report states that there seems to be a ‘belt of fraud’ running through the rural Southeast.

Who Are These Fraudsters?

ID Analytics stated that whilst some fraud rings consist of just a few people, others are significantly larger. The research uncovered a surprising number of rings that consist of families working together, some of them even using each other’s dates of birth and social security numbers. A family of five in Florida were thought to have filed at least one hundred and thirty fraudulent applications over a two-week period.

They were believed to have been committing frauds for at least three years using more than eleven dates of birth and eight social security numbers. This family all lived together and co-ordinated their activities so that one of them would operate for a couple of days and then stop for a few days whilst the next person operated.

However, rings made up of friends were found to be more common, as the majority of fraud ring members had different last names to one another. The three-digit ZIP codes with the highest numbers of fraud rings were observed to be areas around Tampa in Florida, Washington DC, Greenville in Mississippi, Macon in Georgia, Montgomery in Alabama and Detroit.

Impersonating both the Dead and the Living

The study highlighted a trend towards stealing dead people’s identities. ID Analytics stated that identity fraudsters gather together personal information associated with individuals that they know have passed away and use the information to open credit card accounts and purchase goods. When the bill arrives, there is no responsible party. Two and a half million dead people are thought to have their identities stolen each year.

Straightforward identity theft was also identified as one of the main forms of ID fraud. Crooks are still fond of using the traditional method of obtaining victims’ dates of birth, social security numbers, names, etc. This can enable them to get a whole host of other information and can be incredibly costly. For instance, if they are able to get hold of a credit card in somebody else’s name then they can get a credit card cash advance. One of the risks associated with getting cash advances on credit cards is that if it is done by a fraudster, it is possible to steal more money than the card owner actually possesses, making this a particularly attractive prospect for ID thieves.

Implications

Chief technology officer of ID Analytics Stephen Coggleshall claims that by taking a broad approach to ID theft and examining the way in which ‘bad people’ are connected to one another as opposed to the activities of individuals, the company has uncovered information that can improve customer protection. The research conducted by the organisation challenges the commonly held perception that identity fraudsters are ‘tech geeks’ pounding away on keyboards.

They are often simply persistent criminals who will stop at nothing to deprive people of their money. It also highlights the amount of homegrown ID fraudsters. Identity thieves are often stereotyped as being Eastern European but the research shows that large numbers of them are American, many of them living in rural communities.

This emphasizes the fact that people need to be extra careful with their personal information, as these thieves could be living next door. It highlights the scale of the threat that identity fraud poses to the country’s wallets and also indicates that significant numbers of individuals line their pockets by carrying out this type of crime.

“Ten Thousand Identity Theft Rings Operating in the United States” was written by Melissa Hathaway.  Melissa is a personal finance writer and former bank teller turned personal finance writer, offering advice and tips to publications on both sides of the pond. Source: http://www.money.co.uk/article/1001859-the-real-cost-of-cash-on-credit.htm