Discussions about ID theft often involve hackers and cyberattacks gaining access to consumer and payment data. But action from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday (Sept. 18) showed how eCommerce can enable other forms of ID theft.
The federal agency said it shut down websites where consumers could buy “fake financial and other documents – such as pay stubs, income tax forms and medical statements – which can be used to facilitate identity theft, tax fraud and other crimes,” according to an FTC statement. They were shut down for violating unfair practice prohibitions.
One of the cases involves a company called Innovative Paycheck Solutions.
The agency said that the person behind the operation, Katrina Moore, “promoted the sale of a variety of financial documents on the website she operated, FakePayStubOnline.com. In addition to fake pay stubs, these documents included bank statements and profit-and-loss statements.” A consumer could buy a fake stub for as little as $40, and would need at least $150 for a fake tax return.
“The site offered visitors the choice to customize their documents and to edit real bank statements, touting its ‘Custom Fake Pay Stub’ and ‘Fake Pay Stubs Online, Quick, Easy, Accurate Pay Stubs,” the agency said.
Moore “has agreed to pay $169,000, all of which is suspended due to her inability to pay,” the agency said.
Another case involved a company called Integrated Flight Solutions. Its operator, Steven Simmons, had a “NoveltyExcuses.com website from 2013 until October 2017, where for $19.95 he sold a variety of financial, identity and medical documents including pay stubs, auto insurance cards, utility and cable bills, doctor’s excuses and medical absence reports,” the FTC said.
Simmons was ordered to pay $15,000.
The FTC also shut down websites operated by George Jiri Strnad II “that offered fake pay stubs, tax forms and bank statements. His iVerifyMe website sold job verification services in which he claimed to verify employment and income for customers,” the FTC alleges. He was ordered to pay $133,777.
These relatively low-tech cases come amid building questions over digital ID and authentication, and as retailers head into the holiday shopping season hoping to prevent even more sophisticated types of fraud.
Robots and AI, for instance, are being enlisted in the fight against fraud and identity impersonation, according to a recent PYMNTS interview with Sunil Madhu, founder of identity verification and fraud prevention services provider Socure. Robots can, in the words of Madhu, “do things more efficiently” when backed by cutting-edge AI and machine learning technology. The robots can define and write their own rules, going beyond intuition to spot patterns that might be too subtle for a person to see — or least see in time to prevent fraud.
The concept of digital identity may be shifting as well. So much of digital ID relates to the question of security. As Madhu put it: “It’s always an interesting type of seesaw fight between security and ease of use.”
The FTC action also comes amid charges for an alleged North Korean hacker, whose exploits were detailed in another recent PYMNTS story that looks into the anatomy of a bank heist.