Study identifies 45 million ID cheaters in the U.S.

July 1, 2011

About one in six Americans have intentionally altered their identities on applications — an estimated 45 million people — according to a new study using 1.4  billion records from 300 million distinct people.

“All consumers suffer because we all have to pay high costs and fees because of these fraudsters,” says Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer for ID Analytics, a company hired to help prevent fraud.

(Watch Coggeshall on video discussing the study.)

The records were compiled from applications to banks, financial institutions and telecommunications companies by ID Analytics. An estimated one-third to one-half of those — potentially more than 20 million Americans — are committing outright fraud, Coggeshall says.

“This is the first time anyone has looked at the perpetrators of identity fraud,” he said in an interview. “This is the first time that we’ve really tried to figure out who are the perpetrators, who are the criminals, how they behave and where they live.”

Yes, where they live. Michigan and Texas had the largest clusters of those trying to cheat on applications, according to the study.  Those trying to avoid having financial problems haunt them and those who entered the country illegally are two of the categories likely to be altering their identities, Coggeshall says.

“Deliberate identity manipulation is far more prevalent than we imagined,” he says. “There is a continuum here from what I call benign manipulation to clearly criminal.”

Because ID Analytics works for the companies that process these transactions to help protect against fraud, the company has the actual names, addresses and Social Security numbers used.

One woman, identified by the company as “Angela” from Brooklyn, used 76 Social Security Numbers, 14 first names, 10 last names, 14 dates of birth and 31 addresses. She has nothing on “Thomas,” who calls Philadelphia home and was documented using 165 Social Security numbers.

The study filtered out incidental alterations of names such as using a nickname, typos and other situations that appeared to be isolated. What was detected was the majority of those doing this appeared to do it on purpose to try to beat the system, to get a job or to get credit.

Other findings from the study:

  • Eight million people used two or more Social Security numbers
  • 16 million people used multiple dates of birth
  • 10 million people altered their own identity by mixing it with their spouse’s information

Coggeshall says the company doesn’t plan to turn over its findings to law enforcement. He said the company’s partners, the banks and telecoms and financial institutions, can do that.

He estimated that 80 percent of the attempts to commit fraud or manipulate data are caught. “We and our partners do a pretty good job of catching these things,” Coggeshall says. Still, he says, 20 percent of 45 million is still an awful lot of people. “If fraudsters weren’t so successful at this it wouldn’t be going on.”

“Most people are not victims or at risk,” Coggeshall says. To learn more about how to avoid having your identity stolen, check the resources offered by the Federal Trade Commission and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

[…] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] Reuters Wealth Tags: cheaters, identifies, Million, study, […]

Posted by Study identifies 45 million ID cheaters in the U.S. | Report as abusive