How biometrics can fight synthetic identity fraud

August 28, 2017 - 

This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews, a biometrics and technology writer.

Identity fraud is a major issue today, and it’s only getting more advanced. You may think people who engage in stealing identities take details from single individuals and assume those personas. That practice still occurs sometimes, but synthetic identity fraud is even more widespread.

The basics of synthetic identity fraud

People involved in synthetic identity fraud take bits of information from various victims and combine it. They might take a name from one person and a social security number from another. Other times, real data gets mixed with fake details.

Aggregators specialize in creating new identities, known as “fullz,” and sell them on the black market. Criminals use the stolen information to orchestrate account takeovers or ATOs, and this form of crime has seen a 112-percent year-over-year increase.

That jump hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. According to this 2017 Technology RiskFactor Report, 100% of top tech companies are worried about cybersecurity breaches, with 88% saying they’re even concerned about their ability to manage their IT infrastructure.

Essentially, synthetic fraud is up, and confidence in cybersecurity is down. Here’s why that matters.

How does this kind of fraud affect victims?

Security experts say this variety of fraud is the fastest-growing type of identity theft and that it accounts for about 85 percent of all cases. It’s also tough to spot because false information on a credit report can negatively impact cardholders, but it shows up in sub files that aren’t visible on the part of the report consumers see. Even so, it’s wise to verify credit report data several times per year.

Some criminals even target the social security numbers of children. Because kids don’t have credit histories yet, a fraudster could swipe social security numbers of youngsters and go undetected for years. As you’ve seen from the insight into sub files on credit reports, finding out something is amiss is very hard, and that’s especially true because kids don’t have credit reports to check.

Figuring out something is wrong also becomes more difficult because institutions often do not cross-check information often enough to realize things aren’t matching up. Con artists then use the synthesized data to apply for loans and welfare benefits or rent places to live.

However, something called behavioral biometrics is making headway in reducing these fraudulent ID cases.

The benefits of biometrics in curbing synthetic identity fraud

Security analysts warn that most two-step forms of authentication are not robust enough to stop scammers. However, although passwords get stolen frequently, there are some things about people who aren’t so easy to identify and use: their behaviors.

This reality is at the heart of behavioral biometrics and sheds light on why people are hopeful it could stop or at least cut down on these instances of stolen identities. When a person types on a keyboard or swipes a finger across a smartphone screen, the speed, accuracy and even the pressure applied while doing so are factors that stay consistent through every use.

The only time there might be major variations in those things is if an individual has a stroke or some other medical issue that impairs usage abilities. Consider how fluidly you fill out forms that request details like your name and address. There’s no need to pause because the information is so “front of mind” that you barely even have to think to recall it.

If biometrics technologies detect a person is unusually hesitant when typing information that should be very familiar to him or her, the acquired data may trigger human security experts to look deeper into a person’s identity and verify it is authentic.

The same goes if an individual makes too many errors while typing basic information, causing him or her to press the backspace key often.

Synthetic identity fraud is an alarming phenomenon. But, thankfully, now that security professionals know it exists, they can be more aware of how it manifests. Behavioral biometrics could help achieve victories in the fight against keeping it at bay.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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About Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a biometrics and technology writer who contributes to VentureBeat, VICE, MakeUseOf and The Week. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follow her blog Productivity Bytes.