In Battling Identity Fraud, Finding The (Synthetic ID) Devil Behind The Details

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Digital DNA. Perhaps the last and best hope in the battle against ID fraud – the kind that brings ruin to credit reports and billions of dollars in losses to card companies and merchants.

News Monday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has walked back from a full-tilt investigation into the Equifax breach brought to mind the personal data of hundreds of millions of people that is now floating across the Badlands of the Dark Web.

And so the latest installment of Data Drivers could not be more timely, as PYMNTS’ Karen Webster and GIACT EVP of product David Barnhardt delved into how identity fraud has progressed, where it might be headed and what conscientious consumers and companies can do in a brave new world where losses are in the billions and victims are in the millions.

Barnhardt related that with the advent of chip cards in the United States, fraudsters have been looking for new avenues through which to continue their criminal enterprises. The data is out there now, more than ever before – and, as he said, all stakeholders need to be proactive in the battle.

“As consumers, what do we need to do to start to be diligent in protecting ourselves?” he posited. “We need to take a stand to help with the monitoring of credit.” And as consumers become ever more aware of the dings to their individual reports, they are holding companies accountable, he said, when they go to sign up for credit or get goods or services.

Complacency is a real danger here, said Barnhardt: The overarching mindset is that “people think ‘it can’t happen to me’ – and then there is the other end of the spectrum, where ‘I’m scared of everything’ and ‘I’m scared to interact with any [monitoring] service’ … they just do not trust it.” He noted that in all the news reports detailing the ravages of identity theft, one thing is notably missing: A list of free services – from the government and elsewhere – that can help individuals monitor whether they have been compromised and how to protect themselves.

But here’s a problem: What to do when the bad guys have been concocting identities from far-flung sources, where a pastiche of data comes back to haunt the unwitting via charge-offs and debt collectors, months and years after the fact? Some sobering stats follow.

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