In the digital age, data is a valuable asset that fuels the growth and success of businesses and organizations. Every time we use the internet, we generate data that can be used to make informed decisions, personalize our experiences, and identify patterns and trends. One of the most valuable forms of data is identity data, which includes personal information such as names, addresses, and social security numbers. With identity data, companies and organizations can create a unique digital identity for each individual, allowing them to make even more informed decisions about product offerings, marketing, creditworthiness, and product experience.
However, the collection and storage of identity data must be done in a secure and responsible manner to protect individuals from the risks associated with identity farming. In this blog post, we will delve into the topic of identity farming and provide you with everything you need to know to protect your identity data in the digital age.
What is Identity Farming?
Identity farming is a type of fraud where a person or group collects and exploits other people’s identity data—often stolen—for fraudulent purposes. Let’s explain this with a story.
Sarah was a successful businesswoman who often used her laptop to work remotely from coffee shops around the city. One day, Sarah received an email that appeared to be from her bank, asking her to verify her account details. Without thinking twice, she clicked the link in the email and entered her personal information, including her Bank Verification Number. Unbeknownst to Sarah, her personal information had just been harvested by cybercriminals. They use her personal information to either target her with promotional SMS adverts, unwarranted offers and even to create fake social media accounts or fintech accounts in her name. Sarah soon notices an uptick in spam emails, unsolicited phone calls, and even fraudulent charges on her debit card. She does not know how, but she had fallen victim to identity farming. Her personal information is now in the hands of those who try to profit from it, and she has little recourse to protect herself.
Identity farming is a common strategy used by fraudsters because it enables them to evade stringent identity verification checks and conduct criminal activities anonymously. This type of fraud can be particularly challenging to identify because it relies on a combination of legitimate and fake identity credentials, making it difficult to trace and prevent.
How Does Identity Farming Work?
Identity farming is made possible by stealing the personal information of unsuspecting individuals. Fraudsters obtain this information using various tactics such as phishing scams, social engineering, data breaches, and purchasing data from the dark web or other third-party sources. Once they have access to the personal information of multiple individuals, they combine this data with falsified information to create new identities that are not associated with real people.
For example, fraudsters may use the name and address of one individual, but use a different email address and BVN to create a new identity. They can repeat this process with multiple identities, depending on how much personal information they have. Once the new identities are created, they use them to create fraudulent accounts on digital banks mostly to perform illicit transactions.
Use Cases: How Do Bad Actors Use Farmed Identities to Perform Fraud?
Let’s explore how fraudsters utilize identity farming to perform fraud in different industries.
In the BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) space, bad actors use farmed identities to perform fraud by creating multiple accounts using fake identities. They gradually build trust in the system by successfully completing payments for small purchases over time. As they build a good payment history, they qualify for more expensive goods and make the purchases using the farmed identities. Once they have obtained the expensive goods, they default on future payments, essentially turning the BNPL model from "Buy Now Pay Later" to “Buy Now Pay Never.”
Since the fraudsters created the fake identities to make the purchases, it becomes challenging to track them down, and businesses can suffer significant losses.
In lending platforms, bad actors also use farmed identities to perpetrate fraud, using a similar long-term strategy as in BNPL scams. They begin by building their credibility by repaying loans on time, gradually gaining access to higher loan amounts. Once they reach a certain threshold, they game the system by disappearing without repaying the final loan.
Farmed identities enable fraudsters to pass identity verification checks and gain access to credit facilities, making it difficult for lending platforms to detect fraudulent activities.
In the case of ride-hailing services, fraudsters with farmed identities can pose as both drivers and riders, using multiple accounts to perpetrate fraud. Those who pose as riders can cheat the system by taking advantage of referral bonuses offered by the platform. They create multiple accounts and use them to refer themselves repeatedly, reuse promo codes multiple times, and make quick cash.
On the other hand, drivers with farmed identities use their accounts to request, accept, and complete fake trips, and they also give themselves fake five-star reviews to take advantage of rewards offered to drivers for completing a certain number of rides in a given time period. Fraudsters can use these tactics to maximize their profits while evading detection, making it difficult for ride-hailing services to identify and prevent fraudulent activities.
Fraudsters exploit loopholes in fintech businesses by creating multiple accounts with farmed identities. These accounts are then used to take advantage of referral bonuses and promotional campaigns, leading to significant financial losses for the business. To prevent such fraud, fintech companies must implement stringent identity verification processes and regularly monitor user activity.
The Negative Impact of Identity Farming on Businesses?
Identity farming is the means through which bad actors perform identity fraud, and it can cause severe damage to businesses in several ways.
Fraudsters sneak into businesses for financial gain, and every successful fraud attempt spells loss to businesses and/or their genuine customers. The fintech and banking industries suffer the greatest financial loss because fraudsters target them the most.
Reputational Damage and Loss of Trust
Businesses that are victims of fraud and data breaches often suffer some reputational damage. This loss of reputation occurs because customers only want to patronize businesses that are safe and secure. They are always on high alert about who they transact with, particularly when it comes to the security of their money and personal data.
Legal and Regulatory Penalties
Businesses that operate in regulated industries are legally required to implement strict and robust KYC and AML measures. Those that fall victim to identity fraud because they failed to deploy the right security measures often pay steep fines, and in extreme cases, their executives could spend time in jail.
Inflates User Headcount
Identity farming can mislead businesses by inflating their user headcount with phantom users that do not exist. A common example is when businesses run user acquisition campaigns like referral programs or giveaways. They often experience a spike in signups and account creation, which can mislead them to think their campaign was successful when in truth, multiple accounts could be linked to one fraudulent user.
Protect Your Business from Multiple-account Fraud With Dojah
Fraudsters are deploying every means they can to outsmart you and run scams. Start working with smarter fraud detection and prevention solutions to stay one step ahead of their schemes.
Dojah is the all-in-one identity verification, customer onboarding, and fraud detection platform that can help you meet all these needs in one go.
Start verifying your users with ease today. Contact us if you have any questions or schedule a demo session.
Explore our website and documentation to learn more about our product offerings.