45 Million People In U.S. Deliberately Manipulate Their Identities

ID Analytics study found multiple patterns of deliberate identity manipulation

June 30, 2011

5 Min Read


SAN DIEGO, CA – June 29, 2011 – When does a little white lie become fraud? ID Analytics, Inc., a leader in consumer risk management, today released results of an ID:A Labs study that found an estimated 45 million people in the U.S. have deliberately manipulated their identities in applications for credit, cell phone service, auto loans or other credit transactions. Looking beyond typos and name changes, this study examined deliberate and improper variations of Social Security numbers (SSNs), names and dates of birth (DOBs).

The top three identity manipulators used a total of 417 SSNs. Examples of information on three of the most prolific offenders:

#1: 165 SSNs, 44 DOBs and 3 different first names; resides in Philadelphia, PA.

#2: 146 SSNs, 8 DOBs and 8 different first names; resides in Brooklyn, NY.

#3: 106 SSNs, 12 DOBs and 6 different first names; resides in Cleveland, OH.

“This is the first national study of people who are explicitly manipulating identity information,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer for ID Analytics. “While there is extensive research on the crime of identity fraud and its victims, there is far less on the actual perpetrators of the crime. Now for the first time, there is a comprehensive view of who identity manipulators are, where they are living and specifically how they are manipulating their personal information.”

The study found multiple patterns of deliberate identity manipulation:

• Multiple Social Security Numbers: Eight million people are using two or more SSNs.

• Multiple Dates of Birth: 16 million people used multiple DOBs.

• Spouses using their partner’s identity: 10 million people manipulated their identities by co-mingling some of their spouse’s information (SSN or DOB) into their own identity.

“Deliberate identity manipulation is far more prevalent than we imagined. We aren’t including people using nicknames or making a typo on a Social Security number or date of birth, but rather repeated and intentional alteration of key identity elements, in some cases by spouses and parents,” said Dr. Coggeshall. “The study uncovered fraudsters, people manipulating their identity to hide in plain sight, as well as those seeking to avoid poor credit ratings. We’re just beginning to get insight into the range of modes underlying identity manipulation—it is a fruitful area for further research.”

Understanding the Methodology

To conduct the study, ID:A Labs leveraged data within ID Analytics’ ID Network', the nation’s only real time cross-industry compilation of identity information. It contains more than 1.4 billion unique identity events such as applications for products and services where identity information is required. The study resolved the identity events into 300 million distinct people in the U.S., who were then individually examined for consistency of identity information usage.

To increase the accuracy of the results, the study excluded false positives—such as people who have changed their last name, used nicknames (i.e. Fred, Frederick, Freddie), as well as typos. This was accomplished by only considering instances of multiple, independent, systematic variations in SSN and DOB, as well as first name variations beyond nicknames. It also excludes information gleaned from those registering for websites and other services where accurate identity information is not legally required and therefore tends to be less reliable. This enabled ID:A Labs to more accurately determine who was deliberately and improperly manipulating their identity.

The study revealed that the severity of identity manipulation occurs in a continuum beginning with people simply being inconsistent with their names, to obvious malicious misuse via multiple and systematic variations of identity elements. There are many reasons people manipulate identity information. Some people apply for products using slight variations of their true identity to avoid past delinquent history. People may use their spouses’s Social Security number to leverage a better credit score. Sex offenders and illegal immigrants commit identity manipulation to live under aliases to avoid detection, while other identity manipulators seek to gain improper access to health care or government services and benefits.

The study found that the worst cities for identity manipulation are metro areas in Michigan including Detroit, Flint and Lansing, and Texas including Dallas and Houston, as well Texas border and coastal towns such as Corpus Christi, El Paso and McAllen. The map above shows the locations of the top and bottom 25 percent by five-digit ZIP code.

A video about the study including an interview with Dr. Stephen Coggeshall is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82d0ffqSZHE. About ID:A Labs

ID:A Labs reveals important trends in consumer behavior by examining identity use to help organizations better manage both the risk and opportunity of an individual consumer. ID:A Labs is a multidisciplinary group of mathematicians, computer scientists, economists, financial experts, cognitive scientists and advisors from ID Analytics and other respected institutions.

ID:A Labs conducts research and analysis in the areas of identity fraud, credit risk, marketing and segmentation, authentication and identity proofing. The Labs leverage the ID Network', the nation’s first network of cross-industry consumer behavioral data. Backed by patented technology, world-class analytics and the ID Network, ID:A Labs researches, analyzes and reports on developments in consumer behavior, identity- and credit-related issues, the regulatory landscape and innovations in analytics around modeling and machine learning. About ID Analytics, Inc.

ID Analytics is transforming consumer risk management with patented analytics, proven expertise, and real-time insight into consumer behavior. By combining proprietary data from the ID Network'—one of the nation’s largest networks of cross-industry behavioral data—with advanced science, ID Analytics provides unprecedented visibility into identity risk and creditworthiness. Every day, the largest U.S. companies and critical government agencies rely on ID Analytics to make risk-based decisions that enhance revenue, reduce fraud, drive cost savings, and protect consumers. Please visit us on the web at www.idanalytics.com.

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