Fraudsters have been selling identity information online in the black market for over a decade, but a recent investigation found fraudsters are selling full credit report information which they were able to obtain from sources such as the AnnualCreditReport.com initiative started by the FTC.
Consumer credit reports sell on the black market for around $40 to $90 depending on the victim’s credit score. Buyers of this information often use it to open new accounts or lines of credit in the victim’s name. But one of the most alarming facts of this investigation was that fraudsters have been able to obtain the credit reports of others using websites such as AnnualCreditReport.com, CreditReport.com and other sites that are operated by credit bureaus and other legitimate businesses. The FTC started AnnualCreditReport.com after many businesses offered ‘free’ credit reports that were really tied to other paid products and subscription services, and the site is sponsored by the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States.
On a fraudster forum one user posted instructions on how to obtain another’s credit report from one of these websites. The tactic essentially involves attempting to acquire the same person’s credit report from several different sites while the fraudster keeps track of the questions asked from the Knowledge Based Assessment (AKA an out-of-wallet check) screening until they have found all the correct answers by process of elimination. The fraudster is then able to obtain the credit report from another legitimate credit reporting site using the consumer’s identity information along with the out-of-wallet check answers deduced from the previous attempts.
A fraudster may have already obtained a victim’s name and credit card information which they could then use to buy a credit report for that consumer and acquire more information to be used for identity theft. Once a fraudster obtains a credit report they have that victim’s name, phone number, Social Security number, current and former addresses as well as their credit history including the lenders and banks the consumer has relationships with. Some fraudsters will use this credit and identity information directly to perpetrate identity theft and fraud while others will sell this information in the black market. While many consumers use both free and paid services for checking their credit reports multiple times per year, many fraudsters are now utilizing these services as well.
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