Intelligent Identity Security Innovator Sontiq Urges Customer Engagement to Fight Fraud
  • Intelligent identity solution provider Sontiq has issued a new report on security in financial services.
  • The report, 2022 Digital Safety and Security Report for Financial Services, underscores the importance of engaging customers and members in the fight against cyberfraud.
  • Sontiq made its Finovate debut in the fall of 2021 and was acquired a few months later by TransUnion for $638 million.

Intelligent identity security firm Sontiq has warned that the growing sophistication of cybercriminals and increased awareness and concern over the challenge to digital security from the public have created both new challenges and new opportunities for financial institutions. In a new report, the 2022 Digital Safety and Security Report for Financial Services, Sontiq highlights the way cybercriminals have leveraged advanced technologies – including automation and AI – to achieve what Sontiq called a “historic level of data compromise” in 2021.

“Consumers are increasingly anxious about cyber threats, but feel unprepared to take action or deal with the fallout,” Sontiq SVP of Enterprise Risk Solutions Al Pascual said. “Notably, they don’t want generic security advice. Financial institutions can combat increased identity risks with personalized, self-service tools that are seamlessly embedded into the digital banking experience.”

Here are some of the key takeaways from Sontiq’s report.

Financial institutions must understand the threat landscape

“What consumers, organizations, and the media often misunderstand,” the report noted, “is that the data breaches with the greatest impact on individuals are often not the high-profile ones that capture headlines.” Sontiq’s research distinguishes between high-profile breaches at institutions like Facebook/Meta and LinkedIn and high-risk breaches at companies like Gallagher and Waste Management. This is because “high-risk” breaches, while involving fewer victims, tend to involve compromises of more valuable personally-identifiable information compared to “high-profile” breaches.

Synthetic identity fraud is a bigger threat than identity theft

A growing number of financial services companies are recognizing the challenge of synthetic identity fraud, with Sontiq observing that 72% of financial services firms believe that synthetic identity fraud is a “much more pressing issue” compared to traditional identity theft.

Why so? And what’s the difference?

Traditional identity theft involves stealing a real person’s PII (personally-identifiable information) and using that data to engage in criminal activity. And make no mistake: traditional identity theft is still an issue, costing $24 billion in losses and victimizing more than 15 million individuals in 2021. Synthetic identity fraud, by comparison, involves a blending of both real and fictitious information. This enables the fraudster to create a completely new, made-up identity that can then be used to fraudulently open accounts, and apply for loans and credit cards. A newer arrival on the cybercrime scene, synthetic identity fraud also comes at a significant cost. The Federal Reserve has estimated that synthetic identity fraud losses have climbed to $20 billion, making it the “fastest growing financial crime.”

Personalized, proactive identity protection gives financial institutions the opportunity to differentiate themselves

In its report, Sontiq makes it clear that consumers are uncertain about who to turn to in the event of a security breach. “Nearly half of Americans,” the report notes, “say they would not know what to do if their identity was stolen.” Because of this, more than half of American fraud victims (54%) have indicated that they believe their financial institution can play a major role in helping them “navigate and resolve their identity fraud issues.” Breach victims across generations – under 35, between 35 and 54, and over 55 – all turned to their financial institutions for assistance in comparable numbers (50%, 48%, and 44% respectively).

This has resulted in a significant growth in the identity theft protection services market. Analysts project that this market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.4% over the next 10 years.

There are a variety of ways that financial institutions can seize this opportunity by deploying better anti-fraud tools and partnering with fintechs and cybersecurity specialists. But key to all of these efforts, according to Sontiq, is customer engagement. Educating financial services consumers on what to do to enhance their own online security – and what to do in the event of a security breach – is critical. Also important is the role of empowerment, and helping consumers understand what they can do to enhance their own defense against fraud.

“Getting consumers to adopt a self-service approach to identity protection also has the potential to help a financial institution better invest resources,” the report noted. “Informed, engaged customers who actively protect their identities become potent allies – finding fraud earlier and reducing overall risk to them and the financial institution.”

Download the free white paper to read the full report.

Sontiq made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall 2021. At the event, the Nottingham, Maryland-based company demonstrated its BreachIQ solution. BreachIQ identifies and diagnoses a consumer’s security breach history to provide personalized, protective actions the consumer can take to improve financial health and enhance security. The technology effectively leverages AI to turn ID fraud risk into a consumer financial health opportunity.

Launched in 2019, Sontiq was formed when EZShield acquired identity theft protection provider IdentityForce. Last spring, Sontiq announced its acquisition of Breach Clarity, a post-breach fraud specialist and Finovate Best of Show winner. In October 2021, Sontiq itself was acquired by fellow Finovate alum TransUnion for $638 million. In a statement, TransUnion said that Sontiq’s identity security technology compliments its own digital identity assets and solutions.

“TransUnion is committed to empowering consumers to shape their financial futures,” TransUnion President of U.S. Markets and Consumer Interactive Steve Chaouki said. “With Sontiq, we will ensure that consumers and businesses have a comprehensive set of tools to protect the financial profile they have built.”

Photo by RODNAE Productions