Basics of Synthetic Identity Theft

Synthetic identity theft is an increasingly common type of identity theft that does not make complete use of a victim’s identity but rather combines real information with fake or uses personal information from multiple people to create a composite identity. It appeals to criminals in part because it is more difficult to detect and the fraud can be continued longer. Children are especially popular targets for this sort of fraud, as their credit is rarely closely monitored and criminals may have long periods of time before the child is old enough to try to make use of their own identifying information.

An important thing to remember about synthetic identity theft is that it is a long con that may not produce much damage at first. Criminals will try build up the constructed identity in various ways, which may or may not appear on the credit of the various real people attached to the information, over a period of years before making a move to cash out.

Here are a few tips for protecting yourself. All apply doubly to children.

  1. Keep your credit frozen if you aren’t using it (as children never are).

  2. Social security numbers are especially useful for synthetic identity theft and take care how you give yours out. Register with to monitor usage of your SSN. Many businesses, notably doctors, ask for SSN when they do not need it, so take care to evaluate whether you really need to give it out.

  3. Credit monitoring is always a must, although synthetic identity theft may or may not appear on the credit of the people whose information is used. Less obvious is that credit monitoring is a must for young children.

  4. Be vigilant for mail that comes to your home addressed to other individuals.