July 29, 2021

Stolen-identity danger climbs

Stolen-identity fraud risk continues to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic because consumers are unwittingly arming would-be fraudsters with their personal information through a spate of successful phishing scams, consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion said.
Scam artists always have had opportunities to steal consumer data, but it is more readily available to exploit after years of data breaches and with the use of the dark web.

Making matters worse, confusion caused by the pandemic is prompting some consumers to lower their guard, said Melissa Gaddis, senior director of customer success and global fraud and identity solutions at TransUnion. A consumer might be expecting important information related to the crisis, thereby making them susceptible to a scam concealed in a letter or email.

For example, a consumer who previously received unsolicited correspondence from the IRS might throw it in the trash, but “If I’m desperately seeking a stimulus check or unemployment, I expect it,” Gaddis said. “That’s where fraudsters are really taking advantage of this current pandemic. I think phishing tactics are more successful now than they would have been this time last year.”

A rapid shift to remote vehicle sales without also automating fraud-prevention tactics could introduce dealerships to disaster, according to Lee Cookman, director of product strategy of global fraud and identity solutions at TransUnion.

“There are just things that you’ve relied on in the past — looking across your desk at somebody, asking them to hand you their license — that don’t work in this COVID environment,” Cookman said.

Automating fraud-prevention processes could more accurately uncover false identities, said Doug Clare, vice president, fraud, compliance and security solutions at Fair Isaac Corp. Corroborating driver’s license data with multiple sources and personal information such as cellphone numbers and email addresses digitally will catch discrepancies faster, and more accurately, than eyeball-to-eyeball assessment. Device verification tools that identify if a specific computer or mobile device was used in multiple fraud cases also could help prevent fraud.

“We’re hopeful that organizations realize they need to make investments around account origination,” he said. “Automation will improve the fraud checks.”

Acquiring a stolen identity online is fairly simple today, Cookman said. Many sites on the dark web offer ID numbers and driver’s licenses for a nominal fee.

“There’s a lot of forged documentation that’s out there. So having some kind of a source to verify the information against is, I think, pretty critical,” Cookman said.

“In the current environment, knowing that you’re dealing with a heightened level of ID theft, it should be anticipated that you should do some extra verification.”