Experts disagree on the impact financial fraud using partial identifiers can have on a victim's credit file. For instance, if a criminal uses your Social Security number to get financing for $10,000 worth of furniture at the local home store but doesn't use your name or address with it, the transaction may not make it to your credit file.
According to Evan Hendricks, author of "Credit Scores and Credit Reports," and editor of Privacy Times, credit reporting agencies often create subfiles for Social Security numbers in cases of fraud.
A consumer can only find out about them after applying and getting denied for credit because the credit report sold to subscribers could include the fraudulent information associated with the Social Security number.
Then, if you ask for your own report, the erroneous information won't show up, says Hendricks.
"There's a very precise matching to make sure that they only give you your information, but when they sell a credit report they use a looser algorithm, so more information is included," he says.
"This whole thing of having two separate files, one you sell and one you give to the consumer, is not supposed to happen," Hendricks says. "But it does and affected consumers are forced to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to find out the truth."
Mike Cook, co-founder and chief operating officer of ID Analytics, says synthetic ID theft shouldn't affect your credit at all due to the way credit reporting agencies pull together information and display it.
"I've seen it reported before that synthetic fraud does affect consumers in that way, but it really doesn't. I've worked in the credit bureau system for 20 years. The information won't be added to the file. There might be a fraud indicator added to your file that says someone else might be using your Social, but it won't affect your credit," says Cook. "It might have someone stop you in the credit process and ask questions."
Even your address can be commandeered for fraud.
"Fraudsters can look in the phone book and get your last name and then go to an actual physical location and try to get credit or finance something that they would buy from a retail lender or get a wireless cell," says Cook. "Say Mike Cook lives at the certain address that they have; they will say that their name is John Cook at that address."
If the perpetrator is declined credit, the declination letter will be mailed to your address.
"If that happens, they (the victim) should contact the company that sent the letter and they should also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center and they'll be able to explain to them what happened," says Cook.