Thieves hit on a new scam: Synthetic identity fraud


Elaine S. Povich

In fall 2020, 43-year-old Adam Arena and a dozen suspected co-conspirators were indicted in New York on charges of trying to swindle banks out of more than $1 million through a scheme known as “synthetic identity fraud.”

They combined real Social Security numbers with mismatched or phony names to create new identities, according to investigators. Prosecutors began the investigation in 2018 and charged them with 108 counts of illegal financial activity, mostly borrowing huge amounts of money they never intended to pay back, according to investigators.

The scheme was so fruitful that in May 2020, according to prosecutors, Arena apparently did it again.

This time, investigators say, Arena and a partner used synthetic identities to bilk the federal government out of nearly $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help people who had lost their businesses or employment due to the pandemic. The duo…

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