Bettendorf, Iowa and Edison, N.J. - Fraud Resource Group, a business, insurance and identity fraud investigative and consulting firm, is using StrikeForce Technologies' products to launch a Web-based identity validation and authentication service, called the Trusted Customer program, which is designed to help prevent fraudsters from setting up fraudulent accounts and stealing high-value vehicles, goods and rental equipment.Construction equipment theft is a $1 billion annual problem, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and only 10% to 15% of stolen equipment is ever recovered, according to the National Equipment Register. Fraudsters, posing as customers and contractors, use false credentials and stolen credit card data to "rent" vehicles, tools, and construction equipment. The rental stores lose equipment and potential income until a replacement arrives, and the legitimate credit card holder is left to dispute the charge.

"Almost a third of all our equipment theft claims are due to conversion, which means the customer rents equipment but never brings it back. The renters use false or stolen identification, so it does no good to try to track them down," says Maura Paternoster, risk management coordinator for ARA Insurance Services.

"Rental fraud has become a concern that can't be ignored. Trusted Customer appears to be a valuable and proactive risk management tool to combat this growing problem," says Kathy Schwartz, senior vice president and CFO of the American Rental Association.

Another top target for ID thieves is the automobile industry. There are 21,000 authorized dealers in the United States that sell nearly 30 million cars annually. Fraudsters obtain financing while using someone else's valid name, address and Social Security number, and often re-sell vehicles or their parts. For example, a San Francisco-based group stole 113 vehicles valued at $2.3 million between August 2004 and February 2005. Recovered vehicles were found as far away as New Jersey, Texas and Florida.

This Trusted Customer program combines StrikeForce's identity validation product, ValidateID (formally known as "VerifyID"), and its authentication platform, ProtectID, to validate that new customers are who they say they are by presenting them with three to five questions that the "right" person will be able to answer, but that fraudsters are unlikely to know. The program scans more than 20 years of historical data encompassing billions of records, such as previous address, vehicle and homeowner information.

When the questions are answered correctly, the individual becomes a Trusted Customer, and is issued a user ID linked to his or her cell phone. Returning Trusted Customers present their user IDs, and the Trusted Customer program calls their cell phones to authenticate transactions. Users simply enter their customized PINs into cell phone keypads, and they're approved.

The process only adds a few seconds to each transaction and provides protection to merchants, customers and potential identity theft victims. Additional benefits include better service by increased equipment availability and lower insurance rates due to reduced fraud.

"Identity fraud schemes have become increasingly more sophisticated. Fraudsters have banded together to form efficient and profitable criminal organizations, targeting merchants with high-valued goods that can be easily resold, as well as car dealers and equipment rental stores," says Jon McDowall, partner with Fraud Resource Group and a fraud investigator for 20 years. "Trusted Customer gives national, regional and small businesses alike the ability to affordably secure their inventory and minimize fraud-related losses."

With so much personal information for sale in the cyber underground, companies are finding that mother's maiden name and current address are not enough to verify customers' identities. Even a lost wallet, Internet search or a look at the obituary pages can give fraudsters enough to swindle and scam using someone else's name.

"Proactively screening customers before theft can occur helps eliminate the cat-and-mouse game of security that most merchants and dealers face," says George Waller, executive vice president of StrikeForce Technologies. "Going beyond information in customers' wallets is the best way to protect everyone involved, and to give security advantages over competitors."

Sources: StrikeForce Technologies, Fraud Resource Group

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