man with question mark as head, hacker Source: Shutterstock

One residual benefit of the pandemic has been a reduction in instances of synthetic identity fraud – a criminal strategy that involves cobbling together real and fake personal information to open fraudulent accounts or lines of credit with the goal of stealing or moving money. But the financial institutions that are often targeted by synthetic fraud perpetrators shouldn’t relax yet, because it’s expected to surge when payments put off by pandemic loan forbearance programs start to come due.

That’s according to new research from the Chicago-based credit reporting agency TransUnion and Boston-based research firm Aite Group. As of the third quarter of 2020 (the latest data available), outstanding synthetic fraud balances for auto, credit card, retail credit card and personal loans totaled $855 million, a drop from the $1.05 billion reported two years prior, according to TransUnion’s analysis. In addition, TransUnion found new auto loan and credit card accounts tied to synthetic fraudsters declined by 23% and 32%, respectively, from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020 – down to their lowest points since the company began tracking them in 2016.

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Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has been immersed in the credit union industry for over a decade. She first joined CU Times in 2011 as a freelance writer, and following a two-year hiatus from 2013-2015, during which time she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union), she re-joined the CU Times team full-time as managing editor. She was promoted to executive editor in 2019. In the earlier days of her career, Chilingerian focused on news and lifestyle journalism, serving as a writer and editor for numerous regional publications in Oregon, Louisiana, South Carolina and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, she holds experience in marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space. At CU Times, she covers People and Community news, cybersecurity, fintech partnerships, marketing, workplace culture, leadership, DEI, branch strategies, digital banking and more. She currently works remotely and splits her time between Southern California and Portland, Ore.

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