Passports: Personation

Home Department written question – answered on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham PPS (Mr Mike O'Brien, Solicitor General), Law Officers' Department

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to combat identity fraud in the process of issuing passports.

Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has developed a comprehensive counter fraud strategy to combat identity fraud in the passport issuing process. This strategy includes:

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 interviews for all first-time adult customers.

These measures are only the latest in a long running programme of counter fraud initiatives developed by IPS. In the last five years IPS has:

Significantly increased security in 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 created a database of around 750,000 infant death records to counter "Day of the Jackal" type fraud.

Introduced secure delivery of passports to customers from February 2004 resulting in an 80 per cent. reduction in losses of passport in the post.

Created better arrangements for the reporting, recording and sharing of data on lost/stolen passports. This database of around 920,000 records is now shared with UK border control and border control authorities worldwide via Interpol.

Established fraud and intelligence units in each of its seven passport issuing offices and provided professional, accredited training for all investigators.

Introduced 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 2000 cases. Utilising intelligence on known fraud patterns, other fraud will be identified through the searches IPS are conducting on its database of 50 million passport records. This will be a similar set of exercises to that successfully conducted on infant deaths. This is an ongoing process and will be strengthened in November 2007 when IPS has access to adult death information. IPS are also developing plans to use facial recognition to check for duplicate identity fraud.

All the information uncovered on fraudulently obtained passports is passed to the UK Immigration Service for use at all UK ports. Experience shows that this is successful in disrupting criminal activities.

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