Doing it All: A case study analysis of a single consumer's journey across the identity fraud spectrum
August 8, 2023
In the summer of 2017, "Jane Doe's" personal finances were in bad shape. More than 10 of her accounts - ranging from credit cards to personal loans - were in collections, totalling nearly $30,000 in delinquent debt. Her credit score was, unsurprisingly, in "deep subprime" territory.
Facing a drastic situation, Jane opted to take equally drastic measures to assist with her financial circumstances: Between 2017 and 2019, she was arrested three times for felony fraud and identity theft.
In between arrests, we began seeing Jane apply at several SentiLink partners. After her third, the velocity of her applications picked up considerably. Only a small portion of these applications were legitimate, i.e. Jane applying with her complete and accurate PII for a financial product. The rest of the applications that year were flagged by our early synthetic models, as well as labeled by our risk analysts, as first party synthetic fraud due to the use of multiple different SSNs and blacklisted addresses on the different applications.
At this point, crime wasn't paying. Toward the end of 2019, Jane's strategy to improve her financial situation took a sharp turn when she formed an LLC and started a business. Noteworthy in this is the nature of her enterprise, which we can speculate with some confidence was inspired by her financial struggles: Jane started an online, social media-based marketplace to sell authorized user tradelines to help people commit first party fraud by artificially boosting their credit score.
Within our network, 2020 was a quiet year for Jane. Only a handful of applications with SentiLink partners were seen -- some legitimate using her authentic PII, and some using her synthetic identities which we flagged. However, we can infer that she was successful on at least a few prior occasions using her synthetic identities with non-SentiLink partners due to the presence of newly charged-off accounts associated with SSNs that do not belong to her.
During 2021, the nation was in the throws of a pandemic. Businesses were struggling and, apparently, so too was Jane's tradeline marketplace LLC. The federal government was there to help, awarding her business a PPP loan of $21,000. This loan was for "payroll" to support her claim of 10 employees. Based on our analysis of her web activity, we do not believe she has more than one employee.
2021 and 2022 were contrasting, two-sides-of-the-same-coin years for Jane. In 2021 she was very credit-active, making many legitimate applications that appear both for personal and business-related financing (only two of her applications in our network during this time were with her synthetic identities). Also during this year we observed her sampling her own wares, adding seven authorized user tradelines to her own legitimate credit profile. This resulted in her credit score rising to "prime" level. Jane smartly acquired a number of mature authorized user tradelines that were almost as old as she was at the time. The largest of these was a well-seasoned credit card with a $49,000 limit.
In 2022, Jane began leveraging her prior first party fraud activity with great success. With her inflated credit score, we observed six new credit accounts from non-SentiLink partners, including car loans of nearly $100,000 in total. Among our network, we observed multiple attempts to apply for credit using alternate SSNs, continuing her synthetic fraud attempts from prior years.
As of this writing (late July 2023), Jane has been actively committing synthetic identity fraud for six years. Her most recent attempt in our network was an application using her 14th SSN. More of her attempts lately have failed eCBSV among our partners using the service, making her synthetic efforts more difficult. Her credit score has dipped nearly 100 points, likely due to the new credit she added in 2022.
Synthetic fraud. Identity theft. First party fraud. PPP fraud. eCBSV checks. Jane's history covers much of the types of fraud SentiLink exists to prevent, and has leveraged nearly all of our tools to stop. Since first entering our network, she has made over 50 applications across 19 SentiLink partners, about half of which were attempted fraud. She continues to be active, applying within the last week, and will continue to be on the radar of our Fraud Investigation Team for our partners going forward.