Dead or alive, your identity is always at risk: New data shows that fraudsters use the Social Security numbers and other personal data of more than 2 million deceased people in the U.S. annually in order to get credit card and cell phone services each year under phony names.
And much of the time, they aren't actually targeting dead people on purpose. In some 1.6 million applications for credit card or other services that require personal identity information, the bad guys inadvertently used an SSN of a deceased person when creating a phony one, according to ID Analytics' ID:A Labs, which published the data as part of an report on identity manipulators.
Overall, criminals each year use the IDs of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans to apply for credit cards and other services, according to the ID:A Labs, which matched the names, birthdays, and SSNs of some 100 million applications from January through March 2011 to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File.
The rate of abuse comes out to 2,000 times a day that cybercriminals use a dead person's identity, according to Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at ID Analytics. "While this is clearly a problem for businesses, surviving family members can also be the victims of this identity fraud as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones," Coggeshall said in a statement. "It's important for people to monitor their deceased family member's identities for at least one year and a good way is with identity theft protection services."
The study employed ID Analytics' ID Network, which compiles identity information with activity surrounding applications for credit card, cell phones, retail, and financial services in order to track identity theft.
ID:A Labs found that close to 800,000 of deceased Americans' identities were purposely targeted, and that identities of hundreds of thousands of dying people are also being compromised on a daily basis.
The report also identified the U.S. metropolitan areas with the worst per capita identity manipulation. At the top of the list is Beaumont, Tex., followed by El Paso, Tex., Detroit; Flint, Mich.; and Jackson, Miss.
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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio