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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Typo Squatters and Synthetic ID Thieves: Who They Are and How to Spot ‘Em

Jul 15


Identity thieves become more clever and brazen each year. Yet this type of theft is preventable with a few simple precautions. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Instead, keep your Social Security card in a safe place only you can access. Collect your mail promptly; this can prevent someone from accessing personal information from a curbside mailbox. Shred unwanted receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired credit cards. You might also want to avoid responding to unsolicited requests for personal information in the mail, over the phone or online. And, you may want to check your credit report on a regular basis, too.

These are a great way to start thwarting identity thieves. But what happens when thieves become crafty and create new ways to steal your identity, with your assistance and without your knowledge? Two relatively new methods of identity theft are robbing consumers of peace of mind – typo-squatting and synthetic identity theft. But what exactly are they?

Typo-squatting – also known as URL hijacking or a making fake URLs – relies on accidental misspellings and typing errors of reputable web addresses. When you make an error keying in the address of a website you’re looking for, typo-squatting redirects you away from the page you intended to access and to a hacker-created lookalike site created to steal private information. Typo-squatters buy up domain names similar to popular web addresses, then wait for unsuspecting individuals to make fat-finger errors so they can request information to use for fraudulent purposes.

Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft happens when thieves create new identities by combining real and fake personal information, then use them to open accounts. An identity thief might use your Social Security number and combine it with a fictitious name. In many cases, the account will appear as an entirely new file with the credit bureaus. Synthetic identity theft also happens when hackers stitch together information from multiple breaches in order to compromise your information.

With all the innovative ways identity thieves are using to steal your information, what is the best way to combat typo-squatting and synthetic identity theft? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Check your credit report regularly for inaccurate information or unauthorized accounts. A good rule of thumb is to check your credit report quarterly, at least. There are also ways to confirm the integrity of your information more frequently, if you choose, (but more on that below).
  • Don’t rely on your typing skills to get to web addresses. Instead, use a search engine to find the website, and then access the site from there. This is especially important if you’re visiting the website of a financial institution or one that will require your personal information. Most search engines are equipped to spot malicious or hacker websites and will warn you before you enter.
  • If you apply for new credit and are denied, make sure the decision was based on your personal information (as it should be), and not on someone else’s.
  • Be vigilant for mail sent to your address in someone else’s name. This can be an indication that your information has been compromised.
  • Review your Social Security statement to spot discrepancies in your income. If you notice income that you didn’t earn or taxes that you didn’t pay, contact Social Security, the credit bureaus and even your local police department.
  • Add credit monitoring alerts to your credit report. You’ll be notified of any changes to your report. This is one of the most consistent and proactive way to identify potential financial fraud.

About the Author: Ash Cash is a business consultant, motivational speaker, financial expert and the author of “Mind Right, Money Right: 10 Laws of Financial Freedom,” and “What the FICO: 12 Steps to Repairing Your Credit.”

Follow Ash Cash on Twitter and Google+.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015, Inc. All rights reserved.