Identity document forgery
Identity document forgery is the process by which identity document
Identity document
An identity document is any document which may be used to verify aspects of a person's personal identity. If issued in the form of a small, mostly standard-sized card, it is usually called an identity card...

s issued by governing bodies are copied and/or modified by persons not authorized to create such documents or engage in such modifications, for the purpose of deceiving those who would view the documents about the identity or status of the bearer. The term also encompasses the activity of acquiring identity documents from governing bodies by falsifying the required supporting documentation in order to create the desired identity.

Identity documents differ from other credentials in that they are intended only to be usable by the person holding the card. Unlike other credentials, they may be used to restrict the activities of the holder as well as to expand them.

Documents that have been forged in this way include driver's license
Driver's license
A driver's license/licence , or driving licence is an official document which states that a person may operate a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle, car, truck or a bus, on a public roadway. Most U.S...

s (which historically have been forged or altered as an attempt to conceal the fact that persons desiring to consume alcohol
Alcoholic beverage
An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries, and over 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption...

 are under the legal drinking age
Legal drinking age
Laws about the legal drinking age cover a wide range of issues and behaviours, addressing when and where alcohol can be consumed. The minimum age alcohol can be legally consumed can be different to the age when it can be purchased. These laws vary among different countries and many laws have...

), birth certificate
Birth certificate
A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth...

s and Social Security
Social Security (United States)
In the United States, Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program.The original Social Security Act and the current version of the Act, as amended encompass several social welfare and social insurance programs...

 cards (likely used in identity theft
Identity theft
Identity theft is a form of stealing another person's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name...

 schemes, or to defraud the government), and passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

s (used to evade restrictions on entry into a particular country). At the beginning of 2010, there were 11 million stolen or lost passports listed in the global database of Interpol
Interpol, whose full name is the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation...


Such falsified documents can be used for identity theft
Identity theft
Identity theft is a form of stealing another person's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name...

, age deception, illegal immigration
Illegal immigration
Illegal immigration is the migration into a nation in violation of the immigration laws of that jurisdiction. Illegal immigration raises many political, economical and social issues and has become a source of major controversy in developed countries and the more successful developing countries.In...

, and organized crime
Organized crime
Organized crime or criminal organizations are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are...


Use scenarios, forgery techniques and security countermeasures

A distinction needs to be made between the different uses of an identity document. In one case, the fake ID may only have to pass a cursory inspection, such as flashing a plastic ID card for a security guard. At the other extreme, a document may have to resist scrutiny by a trained document examiner, who may be equipped with technical tools for verifying biometrics
Biometrics As Jain & Ross point out, "the term biometric authentication is perhaps more appropriate than biometrics since the latter has been historically used in the field of statistics to refer to the analysis of biological data [36]" . consists of methods...

 and reading hidden security features within the card. To make forgery more difficult, most modern IDs contain numerous security features that require specialised and expensive equipment to duplicate. School IDs are typically easier to fake, as they often do not have the same level of security measures as government-issued IDs.
Modern fake ID cards almost invariably carry a picture of the authorized user, a simple and effective form of biometric identification. However, forgery of simple photographic ID cards has become simple in recent years with the availability of low-cost high-resolution printers and scanners and photo editing software. Simple fake ID cards are commonly made using an inkjet or laser printer to print a replica document which is then laminated to resemble a real ID card. Most designs are made using computer programs, re-creating scanned copies of a license.
More complex ID cards are now being created by printing on a material called Teslin or Artisyn, which are paper-like materials that are actually micro-porous plastic sheets. When butterfly pouches and holograms are applied, the card is then run through a heat laminator which creates a professional-looking ID card.

Numerous security printing techniques have been used to attempt to enhance the security of ID cards. For example, many modern documents include holograms, which are difficult to replicate without expensive equipment which is not generally available. Though accurate recreation of these holograms is extremely difficult, using a mixture of pigments and base can create a similar shiny multi-coloured look which may pass cursory inspection.
In addition, some documents include a magnetic strip, which will also contain the same information, and may thus be checked against the machine-readable information on the barcode. Magnetic strips may also contain other secret identifying information. Although magnetic strips can also be faked, they provide another barrier to entry for the amateur forger. Other hidden security devices can also be added, including embedded secure cryptoprocessor chips which are designed to be very difficult to forge, and RFID tags: the two technologies may also be combined, in the case of contactless smart cards.

Another effective technique is the use of online verification of security information against a central database. In many cases, online verification can detect simple copying of a document by detecting attempted use in multiple places at the same time, or completely false IDs, as the information on the ID will be found to be invalid. A simple method of confirming that an ID is genuine is to print a serial number on it unique to the card and stored on a centralised database. If checked, it will quickly become clear that the ID is false; either the number on the ID is not registered for the holder, or no ID has the number at all. Online verification also has the advantage that it allows easy revocation of lost or stolen documents.
Many modern credentials now contain some kind of barcode. For example, many U.S. driving licences include a 2-dimensional code in PDF417 format, which contains the same information as on the front of the license. Barcodes allow rapid checking of credentials for low-security applications, and may potentially contain extra information which can be used to verify other information on the card.

Systemic attacks

The combination of multiple high-security features, biometrics, and well-trained document inspectors with technical assistance can be very effective at preventing forged documents from being easily produced. Instead of acquiring the expensive specialised equipment needed to make fake documents, it may be more economical to produce a "genuine fake"; a legitimate document, but one which contains false information.

One way of doing this is to present the document issuing authority with false credentials, which they will then endorse by issuing a new document. In this way, false identities and credentials can be "bootstrapped" over a period of time.

Another simpler way of generating false credentials is to suborn one of the officials involved in the document issuing process through bribery or intimidation. This may also be combined with the bootstrapping process mentioned above to mount complex attacks.

Corruption in the document-issuing process is hard to counter, since as the value of a credential increases, the economic incentives for corruption also increase. This is particularly true in the case of fake ID cards that combine many functions in one document, and for documents which are issued in large numbers, thus requiring many thousands of people to have authorizing powers, thus creating a longer chain of people who can possibly be exploited. Detection of a "genuine fake" document is also a difficult process; as such a fake is a legitimate document, it will pass any tests for forgery. To detect such fakes, it is necessary to perform a background check
Background check
A background check or background investigation is the process of looking up and compiling criminal records, commercial records and financial records of an individual....

 on the individual in question to confirm the legitimacy of the document's information. Nowadays, drivers licenses and identification cards are verified by scanning the magnetic stripe on the back of the license or by using an ultraviolet light to view images printed by the government on the identification which are only visible under ultraviolet light.

See also

  • Adolfo Kaminsky
    Adolfo Kaminsky
    Adolfo Kaminsky or Adolphe Kaminsky is a former French Resistance, specializing in the forgery of identity documents, who later went on to assist Jewish emigration to Israel and then to forge identity documents for the National Liberation Front and French draft dodgers during the Algerian War...

    - A forger who created documents for French Resistance in Second World war.

External links

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