Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser, Neal O’Farrell shares his views on research from ID Analytics.
According to a recent study conducted by ID Analytics, around 45 million people in the United States knowingly manipulate facts concerning their identity. That means that around 16% of the U.S. population deliberately tinkers with their identity in order to obtain credit, get new cell phone service, get an auto loan and many other things.
I guess probably the same percentage of the population exaggerate or fluff their resumes in order to improve their chances of getting that all-important job. Except that manipulating your identity and credit profile may get you into a lot more trouble, in most cases is illegal, and can create havoc for the victims who may be the true owners of the hijacked identity.
The ID Analytics study looked beyond simple errors and typos in credit applications, and instead focused on deliberate manipulations of things like Social Security numbers, names, and addresses.
Here's a little of what they found when they poked around their database that includes more than 1.4 billion identity events — things like purchases and credit applications — and 300 million individuals in the United States (scary that they have so much information in the first place):
- 8 million people are using two or more Social Security numbers.
- 16 million people were found to be using multiple dates of birth.
- 10 million people manipulated their identities by co-mingling some of their spouse’s information into their own identity.
The firm was even able to identify a selection of the worst offenders and biggest manipulators, like the person in Philadelphia who appears to have 165 Social Security numbers, 44 different dates of birth (lots of birthday presents there), and 3 different names. Or the resident of Cleveland, Ohio who has 106 Social Security numbers, 12 dates of birth, and 6 different names.
According to Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer for ID Analytics “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.”
So why do so many people manipulate their identities in this way? There are many reasons and theories:
- To get the type of credit that their real identity would be denied, perhaps because previous poor credit scores or history.
- People new to the credit or job market trying to jump start their credit history.
- Criminal hiding from the law.
- Sex offenders trying to stay off the radar.
- Illegal immigrants or unauthorized workers moving from job to job or state to state.
- Criminals engaged in systematic fraud.
- Attempts to access or pay for healthcare that might otherwise be denied.
- Attempts to hide finances or purchases from a spouse or former spouse.
Keep informed about the latest threats to your safety.