- Stay in a country illegally
- Avoid legal proceedings
- Steal another person’s identity for profit
- Mislead a contact for profit
- And more
Document fraud has become the third largest criminal industry worldwide, and every year it costs the global economy billions of dollars.
To fight document fraud, States and organizations that issue identity documents continually turn to security techniques.
This is the complete reproduction of an identity document. Generally speaking, this is simple to detect as counterfeits are often of very poor quality and rarely include all security elements present in an authentic document. However, counterfeiters’ technical skill levels are quickly improving, and some well-made counterfeits are beginning to appear.
This involves changes made to an existing document. Changes might be simple ones (changing the birthdate or expiration date, for example), or more complex. Some forgers have even become specialists in document “scrubbing,” whereby they obtain a blank document from a personalized one. The original document may be presented by the forger, or be a document stolen from or sold by its legal bearer. Forgery is behind significant trafficking in stolen identity documents.
An ID document is made up of a substrate personalized with its bearer’s personal data. When the job of personalization is decentralized to local authorities, blank ID documents are sent to these points. Forgers take advantage of this transit to steal some of the blanks, and then personalize them to produce what is commonly called a “stolen blank.” Today, ID documents are mostly personalized in a secure central location to avoid this kind of fraud, although exceptions exist: notably, visas are necessarily personalized in consulates and embassies. Stolen blank fraud is a significant concern for this kind of document.
A fantasy ID document is one completely made up by the forger without any reference to an existing ID document model. It clearly has no value, but can sometimes pass as an authentic document among non-experts. Among the most well-known fantasy documents is the World Passport (see http://www.worldservice.org/docpass.html).
Identity theft is impossible to detect by simply checking an ID document, as the act involves a real ID presented by someone who is not the legal bearer. In this case a cross-check is essential.
Fraudulently obtained document
In the last case, detection can be more complex as it involves a real document obtained fraudulently. An initial document fraud will allow false proofs to be produced that will then be used to obtain a real document. These are commonly called genuine fakes. The identities on them might have been created or stolen.