The U.S. government reviews countless passport applications each day. With so many applicants, it isn’t hard to imagine that it might be challenging to distinguish applications that provide faulty information, from applications that provide true information. In some cases, the fraudsters win. And, that was briefly the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from NewsTimes.com, which describes how one undocumented immigrant tried to defraud his way into acquiring a U.S. passport by using someone else’s identity.
The article reports that a resident of a country neighboring the U.S. used the name, birth date and Social Security number of a U.S. citizen to apply for a U.S. passport in 2010. Of course, anyone who has applied for a passport knows you need more than that to complete the application. Our fraudster did too. He was thorough. He provided a Connecticut driver’s license with his photo and the identity fraud victim’s name, as well as a copy of the identity fraud victim’s birth certificate. So, how did he get the documents he needed for the driver’s license? Authorities say “he entered the country illegally and obtained some of the documents to obtain the license.” The defendant was convicted of passport fraud, and sentenced to serve three years of probation. In exchange for his plea agreement, he agreed not to contest his removal back to his home country. (Hasta la vista.)
So, what can we learn from this? Well…it is pretty easy to steal an identity and apply for a fake passport. All that is needed is a bogus driver’s license (check), a stolen birth date (check) and Social Security number (check) and a birth certificate (check). Cases like this one underscore the need for leveraging public records databases and analytical tools to detect fraud in government programs.