Paul Burstow (Chief Whip; Sutton and Cheam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps (a) her Department and (b) the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has taken to improve the IPS detection of passport fraud since 2001.
Meg Hillier (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office; Hackney South and Shoreditch, Labour)
Over the last six years the Identity and Passport Service has undertaken a range of initiatives to improve the prevention and detection of passport fraud. These include:
Significantly increased security in the passport book through the development and issue from last year of the ePassport which incorporates an RF chip and other advanced physical security features.
From 2002 the creation of a database of around 750,000 infant death records to counter frauds using dead children's identities.
The introduction of secure delivery of passports to customers from February 2004 resulting in an 80 per cent. reduction in losses of passports in the post.
From December 2003, improved arrangements for the reporting, recording and sharing of data on lost/stolen passports. This database of around 1 million records is now shared with UK border control and border control authorities worldwide via Interpol.
The establishment of fraud and intelligence units in each of its seven passport issuing offices with professional, accredited training for all investigators.
The introduction of the Passport Validation Service which enables approved government agencies to validate the status of a UK passport which has been presented to them as evidence of identity. The service is also available to organisations regulated by the Financial Services Authority that have to comply with the "Know Your Customer" statement of good practice requirements.
On an operational level, IPS are using intelligence received and data on known frauds to actively manage passport fraud identified after the issue of the passport. It is currently investigating some 2,000 cases.
IPS work collaboratively with the Border and Immigration Agency on (BIA) matters relating to passport fraud and with the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency on joint actions against those involved in passport fraud. The BIA's National Document Fraud Unit regularly provides training for IPS officers to assist them on detecting passport fraud, and works closely with IPS document experts to ensure the latest and most effective security measures are incorporated in UK passports. IPS and BIA exchange information and intelligence relating to document fraud and BIA accesses electronic records of issued, lost and stolen UK passports and notifies IPS when attempts are made to use UK passports fraudulently.
Going forward, IPS has developed a comprehensive counter fraud strategy to combat identity fraud in the passport issuing process. This strategy includes:
interviews for all first-time adult customers;
checking biographical information to ensure that the identity claimed on the application form is real, living, and can be linked to the customer through cross checks against a range of public and private sector databases;
the development of facial recognition systems to check applicant images against a database of images of suspected fraudsters;
checking applicants against increasingly sophisticated internal watch files including the database of passports reported lost or stolen;
strengthening its business processes for identity authentication, and training and support for passport examiners and specialist fraud units;
utilising intelligence on known fraud patterns and enhanced capability from information sharing arrangements to conduct searches of the IPS database of 50 million passport records to identify fraud committed in the past.