This page considers how identity crime is detected
It covers -
As preceding pages of this profile have emphasised, experience
over two millennia has shown that forged documents, fictional
personal histories and face to face deceptions do not
have to be perfect: they merely need to be sufficient.
Much identity crime in contemporary societies thus has
The first is that individuals and organisations often
want to believe. As a result they will construe forgeries
(often quite blatant forgeries, such as the 'Hitler Diaries'
or incredible claims as being real until suspicion is
triggered - often by a third party - and the belief evaporates.
The second foundation is that much social (and hence commercial
and legal) interaction involves perceptions of risk, costs
Individuals will forgo some checking of claims made by
people with whom they are in contact because that checking
is seen as impolite, would result in unacceptable delays
or is rendered unecessary because another party bears
any losses regarding fraud.
Institutions will similarly avoid some verification mechanisms
because those mechanisms are incompatible with existing
systems and corporate mindsets or will impose a cost that
cannot be readily passed on to consumers or society as
a whole. Elsewhere this site notes perceptions that some
major data custodians (including leading government agencies
and blue chip corporations) have been egregiously negligent
in handling of data that feeds credit card fraud and other
Few people have expertise in document forensics - determining
whether a passport, credit card, proof of age card, financial
statement, will or other document is genuine. Use of documents
often occurs in circumstances where expertise is not at
hand and where there are expectations, on the part of
the individual or organisation accepting the document
as a proof of identity, that checking will be undertaken
In practice that often means that a document that seems
to be authentic - has correct shape and colour, has the
requisite symbols, is provided in a confident manner -
will be accepted. That has resulted in use of 'novelty
documents' and in incidents where someone gained unauthorised
access to a facility merely because the photo on an ID
card matched the imposter's face.
In the interim pointers to forensics regarding forgery
A point of entry to the literature on photo scams is the
Detecting Photographic Composites of People by
Micah Johnson & Hany Farid.
Some identity crime is detected by informants, rather
than directly by identity verification specialists.
fraud, for example, is discovered by peers or subordinates
rather than by superiors or - alas - by vetting services
that claim to verify someone's bona fides. If
you are awarding yourself a PhD, a Bronze Star or other
undeserved attribute the people who will expose that deception
will often be those you work with (especially those you
supervise) rather than professional gatekeepers.
That is of concern as an indication that the gatekeepers
are negligent or simply lack capacity and may thus not
detect abuses by people who claim to be doctors, lawyers,
engineers, electricians, accountants or others in good
One issue in Australia and similar regimes is that consumers
lack ready access to professional registers and to databases
recording complaints against lawyers, doctors or other
professionals who are largely self-regulated. That has
resulted in instances where doctors have been 'struck
off' a professional roll but have continued to practice,
including practice within institutions such as public
A wider discussion of informants features here,
accompanied by pointers on whistleblowing
(and whistleblowing incidents).
The response to much identity crime centres on verification,
in particular matching an individual's claims against
an existing register of data.
That register might have been generated by the state or
by a private entity.
It might be as simple as that concerning date and place
of birth, at best a fuzzy
identifier. It might instead concern fingerprints, face
scans or other biometric
data. It might alternately comprise a record of the individual's
past activity (eg spending patterns).
Verification regimes are susceptible to subversion. Photo
identity cards for example (based on matching the image
on the card to the face of the person bearing that card
or more rigorously to a register with an authoritative
reference image) do not necessarily indicate the bearer's
intention, may not be current and are problematical if
the bearer was entered in the register on an illicit basis
(eg by using a fraudulent CV).
That is of concern because in many circumstances mere
possession of a card that 'looks right' is sufficient,
something that has spawned the phenomenon of 'photoshop
kids' concocting bogus proof of age cards and consumers
unwisely relying on photo id drivers' licences to validate
a range of commercial transactions.
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