When does a little white lie become fraud? An estimated 45 million people in the U.S. have deliberately manipulated their identities in applications for credit, cell phone service, auto loans or other credit transactions, according to ID Analytics.
Looking beyond typos and name changes, this study examined deliberate and improper variations of Social Security numbers (SSNs), names and dates of birth (DOBs).
The top three identity manipulators used a total of 417 SSNs. Examples of information on three of the most prolific offenders:
1. 165 SSNs, 44 DOBs and 3 different first names; resides in Philadelphia, PA.
2. 146 SSNs, 8 DOBs and 8 different first names; resides in Brooklyn, NY.
3. 106 SSNs, 12 DOBs and 6 different first names; resides in Cleveland, OH.
This is the first national study of people who are explicitly manipulating identity information,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, ID Analytics CTO. “While there is extensive research on the crime of identity fraud and its victims, there is far less on the actual perpetrators of the crime. Now for the first time, there is a comprehensive view of who identity manipulators are, where they are living and specifically how they are manipulating their personal information.”
The study found multiple patterns of deliberate identity manipulation:
- Multiple Social Security Numbers: Eight million people are using two or more SSNs.
- Multiple Dates of Birth: 16 million people used multiple DOBs.
- Spouses using their partner’s identity: 10 million people manipulated their identities by co-mingling some of their spouse’s information (SSN or DOB) into their own identity.
“Deliberate identity manipulation is far more prevalent than we imagined. We aren’t including people using nicknames or making a typo on a Social Security number or date of birth, but rather repeated and intentional alteration of key identity elements, in some cases by spouses and parents,” said Dr. Coggeshall. “The study uncovered fraudsters, people manipulating their identity to hide in plain sight, as well as those seeking to avoid poor credit ratings. We’re just beginning to get insight into the range of modes underlying identity manipulation—it is a fruitful area for further research.”
The study revealed that the severity of identity manipulation occurs in a continuum beginning with people simply being inconsistent with their names, to obvious malicious misuse via multiple and systematic variations of identity elements.
There are many reasons people manipulate identity information. Some people apply for products using slight variations of their true identity to avoid past delinquent history. People may use their spouses’s Social Security number to leverage a better credit score.
Sex offenders and illegal immigrants commit identity manipulation to live under aliases to avoid detection, while other identity manipulators seek to gain improper access to health care or government services and benefits.
The study found that the worst cities for identity manipulation are metro areas in Michigan including Detroit, Flint and Lansing, and Texas including Dallas and Houston, as well Texas border and coastal towns such as Corpus Christi, El Paso and McAllen.