Thinking Ahead. Pushing Forward.

Synthetic IdentityAt ID:A Labs we continuously examine aspects of fraud so we can better understand existing methodologies and detect and deter emerging threats.




Topics of our research include:

  • Fraud Modes – The ID Network® contains one of the largest repositories of identity fraud attempts in the United States, which helps in the understanding and classification of such fraud. We classify identity fraud into four fundamentally different types:
    • Synthetic Identity Fraud – Inventing and instantiating a fictitious identity
    • First Party Fraud – Accurately presenting one’s own credentials, potentially with minor variations in contact data, with the deliberate intention to defraud
    • Third Party Fraud – The act of deliberately using a different person’s credentials
    • Identity Manipulation – Slightly modifying one’s own credentials with improper intentions.
  • Data Breaches – All breaches are not the same. They differ in some important characteristics that have implications for how they should be remediated and how much harm is likely to come to victims. Issues that should be considered include:
    • Size – An important consideration; how many victim identities have been exposed to harm?
    • How Data was Breached – Was the data accidentally lost or was it a targeted data theft? A deliberately targeted breach is likely more harmful than an inadvertent breach resulting from a lost data drive or stolen laptop.
    • Fields Exposure – Was the compromised data account-level only (e.g. account number, CVV, user name/password) or was personal data (e.g. SSN, date of birth) also obtained? If only account-level data was exposed, remediation might appropriately be limited to closing the exposed account. However, when personal data is breached, the damage is more harmful because the data can be used to open new accounts.
  • Geography of Identity Fraud – Where is fraud occurring and where are the newly emerging fraud hot spots? In our ongoing research we monitor what regions, cities and zip codes have higher amounts of identity fraud. We have explored this geographic dependence for different aspects of fraud, including:
    • Where is identity fraud originating?
    • Where are people at most risk for identity fraud?
    • Where are people participating in identity manipulation activities?

For example, we find broad regions of elevated fraud activity and risk in Southern Florida, Southern California, and the Mississippi River Valley.

  • Fraud Rings – How can fraud rings be found and classified? In recent research, ID:A Labs defined fraud rings as “groups of two or more people collaborating to commit fraud” and then built customized algorithms to specifically find coordinated activity meeting this definition. We see fraud rings of various types, ranging from professionals to families and friends. Some fraud rings attack financial institutions while others are focused on the procurement of mobile phone hardware. Interestingly, we find identity fraud activity to be concentrated in urban areas but fraud rings occur more frequently in rural areas, particularly in the Southeastern U.S.  Read more about fraud rings by downloading our white paper.