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FORGED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Most people first heard about fraudulent identity documents in high school when some of their friends would try to buy cigarettes or beer while being underage with forged identities. The black market for forged identification documents has been around as long as authentic documents.
Forged identity documents have existed since the inception of the insidious practice of impeding the unalienable right to freedom of movement. With powerful personal computers, printing capabilities, etc. the cat and mouse game of document-fraud has escalated tremendously.
A stated goal of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is to decrease the efficacy of forged travel documents. Immigration officials will have to scrutinize a smaller number of travel documents which will be more difficult to alter, counterfeit or obtain through fraud.
There are some physical features such as holograms, ultraviolet patterns, etc. with the more advanced travel documents. But the significant security features in passports and visas come from the linked databases. For a completely counterfeit United States passport the efficacy has been nearly completely eliminated for entrance into the United States although it may still be useful for travel abroad.
Consequently, the ability to Photoshop passports and have them work has been greatly curtailed. Luxury forgers such as intelligence agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency can still accomplish this but obtaining those documents will likely be extremely expensive.
To obtain a United States passport a new applicant will generally submit a birth certificate to prove evidence of United States citizenship and a valid drivers license. Relative to a United States passport both of these documents are relatively easy to forge.
For example, luxury alien smugglers with relationships to corrupt officials may charge around $30,000 for a package containing a genuine United States passport, birth certificate, social security card and driver’s license or a mere $10,000-15,000 for a genuine United States visa tied to the new database.
The ability to obtain a fraudulent license from a department of motor vehicles (DMV) in a more lenient state presents a significant security hole. Compounding the problem is that an entire illegal industry has arisen to service illegal immigrants in obtaining counterfeit identity documents. Birth certificates can also be illegally obtained fairly easily.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents find a large majority of their fraudulent passport cases involve an application with a fraudulently obtained yet valid driver’s license and birth certificate. When these individuals are arrested they often have identification documents for multiple identities from multiple States.
In September 2008 Jose del Castillo, an immigration attorney, who had been indicted on 23 counts of falsely filing immigration forms pled guilty to one count of federal document fraud. He was sentenced to one year in federal prison, fined $15,000 and two years of supervised release.
Citizens of 35 countries can enter and remain in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. The countries include European Union member states, Australia, Japan and others. Because these passports are usually easier to either photoshop or obtain a genuine passport from a corrupt government official therefore these passports are at risk of being stolen and carry a premium on the black market.
Many individuals, particularly Americans, are unaware that their passport is worth thousands of dollars on the black market. This can make a group of tourists an especially lucrative target for Third World thieves.
Yet some United States citizens are aware and sell their passports. We do not recommend selling your passport and the reasons should be self evident.
Forged identities and fraudulent travel documents have been around for a long time. While there are increased efforts by governments to increase the security of their borders and travel documents there will always be security holes. The WHTI will assist in closing some of them regarding the use of fraudulent driver’s licenses and birth certificates for international travel.
But peddlers of fraudulent identification documents will evolve their efforts to adapt to WHTI and exploit other weaknesses in the framework. Individuals can and should be aware of the threat criminals pose to them and their personal privacy by getting the book How To Vanish. Keep your documents safe, never sell them and be aware of how WHTI affects you.