Passport Identity Theft
Your passport is considered an extremely important document. This is because it is a definitive way to identify a person and their country of origin. The purpose of a passport is to determine which countries you are qualified to enter. It is also used to protect you if you are in a foreign country. Obviously, an important document such as this will be a prime target for identity theft.
Before the time of computers, it was relatively easy to apply for a false passport. It could be done merely by using the name of a deceased person who died in childhood. Of course, this is no longer true due to electronic data searches. However, not all the loopholes have been closed. Imaginative identity thieves can still obtain passports. A recent case involved a New Zealand Parliament member. Act MP David Garrett was caught using the identity of a deceased child from the 1980s in order to apply for a passport. (See: reference 1)
Information contained in a passport
Your passport contains more than just a few items of personal information. It will also contain a photograph of you and a record of the countries that you have entered. Some of the items in a passport are usually overlooked by its owner. But these same items might seem very important to an identity thief. The most important page of a passport is the page that is laminated. This is designed to protect the removal or defacing of the owner’s photograph. It also contains identification details. These details will include:
• Passport number
• Given name(s)
• Date of Birth
• Place of Birth
• Issue and Expiry Dates
The owner’s signature is also contained in a passport, as well. All of this information can create a good framework to facilitate identity theft. A robust black market can be found in some countries regarding passport reproduction. This will also include stealing and modifying genuine passports. The motivation for this industry is generally for illegal immigration.
Protecting against passport identity theft
Authorities are constantly making efforts to improve passport design. These designs entail hidden identifiers that can prove the authenticity of a passport. This is similar to steps that are taken to prevent currency counterfeiting. Following recent terrorist attacks, efforts in this area have increased. For example, data chips are used by many countries in biometric passports. Information is also exchanged on passengers internationally. Advanced checking procedures and other modifications are also being used to combat passport fraud.
Since losing your passport can be a very serious matter, you should take steps to prevent this. When traveling, keep your passport with you at all times. A passport can be carried in a money belt, along with other valuables. This is better than using a bag that can be snatched. A hotel security box is another option. Some foreign hotels require this, as it may be needed for inspection by authorities.
Should a passport be lost, the issuing authorities should be contacted immediately. This will usually be done through the owner’s country’s embassy. A replacement or temporary passport can usually be obtained. This will allow one to continue on their journey. But a delay will usually be experienced, as well. The local authorities may also wish to investigate.
New methods are also being developed by those who wish to steal passport information. With the advent of using radio frequency chips in passports (RFID) other security concerns have arisen. Criminals have devise ways to intercept the frequency that carries the owner’s information. (See: reference 2) The U.S. State Department has countered concerns by indicating its safety precautions. These will include encrypted signals and “passive” chips. A passive chip will not broadcast its signal unless it is within a few inches of a chip reader. (See: reference 3)
1. PM: Garrett’s use of baby’s identity ‘bizarre’, New Zealand Herald, September 16, 2010, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10673929
2. Criminal use a new method to steal your identity, WSFA 12 News, November 11, 2008, http://www.wsfa.com/Global/story.asp?S=9322307
3. United States to Require RFID chips in passports, PC World, by Grant Gross – IDG News, October 17, 2005, http://www.pcworld.com/article/123246/united_states_to_require_rfid_chips_in_passports.html