Synthetic Identity

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Full Title or Meme

Just a made up identity, usually for nefarious purposes. Also contains a Fake Identifier.


Typically, from bad actors using made up identifiers.

  • Toolkit Module 1: Synthetic Identity Fraud: The Basics 2021-04 from the US Federal Reserve.
  • But it is also correct to consider the Decentralized ID to be synthetic as it points to a Public Key which may, or may not, be possessed and controlled by a human user. Whoever it is that controls the Decentralized ID they control what Identity Attributes are attributed to that ID. In that sense the ID is always synthetic.
  • Also note that a User Object held by a Relying Party has a record number of some sort which is just a Synthetic Identifier. In this case one that is designed to track the preferences discovered about a real-world user. It will never rise to the level of being, itself, a real-world identity. Which is why some folks insist that there is no such thing as a digital Identity.

Synthetic Identity Fraud

In April 2021, the Federal Reserve released an industry-recommended definition of synthetic identity fraud: the use of a combination of personally identifiable information (PII) to fabricate a person or entity in order to commit a dishonest act for personal or financial gain.

Synthetic identity fraud consists of two main components:

  1. The creation of a synthetic identity
  2. Using that identity to commit fraud

Visit Synthetic Identity Fraud Defined to learn more about the definition, identity elements that may be used to create a synthetic identity, common uses of synthetics and the envisioned industry application of the definition.

Creation of A Synthetic

Certain factors that aid in the creation of synthetic identities make them more attractive to fraudsters than other types of fraudulent activity. From the foundational way the U.S. approaches identities to processes in place to build and foster credit, fraudsters zero in on the opportunities to not only create, but quickly establish a synthetic identity in the payment system.

Some contributing factors include:

  • Use of Social Security numbers as primary identifiers
  • Frequent data breaches that increase availability of PII to fraudsters
  • Credit application processes
  • Limited verification of identities