This page considers the business of blurring or inventing
identities: people who will sell you a fake identity document
or merely furnish an alibi on a commercial basis.
It covers -
Manufacture of fake travel documents, passports, letters
of authorisation and other identity documents was undertaken
last century - the 'age of paper' by governments to facilitate
espionage, covert action or sabotage during periods of
military conflict and undercover surveillance by police
or other official investigators. It is also apparent in
witness protection schemes.
'Official forgery' and counterfeiting is highlighted elsewhere
on this site, in accounts of particular incidents such
as the 1943 UK "Man Who Never Was' exploit (aka Operation
Mincemeat) and in histories of intelligence agencies such
as the CIA.
What of the private 'true lies' business?
Readers of this site periodically ask whether organised
crime is retailing identity documents; one desperate or
particularly ingenuous contact sought advice about where
to buy a fake passport and drivers' licence.
It is clear that fake identity documents are available
in black markets and that there are gray markets for some
documents. Information about the shape of those markets
(who is involved, what sums are involved, the number of
documents and the efficiency of responses) is problematical.
One reason is that many offences may not be detected.
Others are merely not publicised. As an illegal industry
- like narcotics - participants do not furnish comprehensive
data about production, distribution and consumption. It
is thus not possible to benchmark turnover and profit
A final reason is that public/private sector organisations
are reticent about highlighting vulnerabilities (although
on occasion apparently hyping particular solutions such
as the Australia Card)
and so much information is anecdotal.
Overall we can draw several conclusions, discussed in
more detail below -
way to gain a new identity remains purchase of legitimate
documents, particularly from states such as Papua New
Guinea with systemic governance failures. There is no
need for example to labour over faking watermarks and
seals if you can simply bribe a consular official to
issue a passport in the name of your choice or you can
buy 20 blank passports
way is to source documents from a cottage industry of
'photoshop kids' - people who will cook up identity
documents of varying persuasiveness on a bespoke basis.
Incidents highlighted in the discussion of forgery elsewhere
on this site include discovery that individuals were
creating fake licences and other documents using personal
computers and scanners: insufficient for international
travel but enough to 'breed' other documents
people are engaging in Walter Mitty fantasies (or defrauding
banks, other institutions and employers) by buying 'novelty'
documents from commercial vendors, some of whom provide
alibis for social interactions that do not involve the
the real McCoy?
US bandit Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks,
responded "that's where the money is!". Some
consumers have displayed a similar acuity, buying identity
documents in gray or black markets.
Some people have observed formalities and officially purchased
passports and other papers
from indigent states in the Pacific, Caribbean or Africa.
A few hundred thousand dollars (or less, depending on
the desperation of the president of the day or ruling
family) and you can become a citizen of the particular
state with no questions about where your loot came from
or inconsistencies in the details on the new bit of paper.
You don't even have to live on the atoll or among the
glittering nightlife of Kigali, although regime change
means that citizenship may be revoked if new payments
are not forthcoming.
Intermediaries for such 'rebirthing' services advertise
through legal/accounting specialists, in mainstream journals
such as Forbes and enthusiast publications such
as Soldier of Fortune.
The number of purchases per year, their value and the
incidence of revocations is not clear. One reason is that
most regimes do not distinguish between gifts of citizenship
to 'favoured investors' and sale to crooks. Another reason
is that the proceeds of sale may be absorbed by the ruling
kleptocrat rather than trickling down to the national
exchequer, with transparency revealing that the autocrat
is using the passport business as a personal ATM.
official paper, unofficial words?
Some people without those resources and imagination (or
who merely need a new/additional identity for scams within
their own country) have relied on illicit issue of documents
by corrupt officials. Improper issue of documents such
as drivers licences, and their use, is typically an offence.
Others have purchased blank forms from officials or from
people who have stolen those documents from government
offices, briefcases, postal bags or other locations. Elsewhere
for example this site notes loss of the PNG passports
database and numerous blanks (alleged by some to be an
'inside job') and disappearance of several thousand blank
French passports, driver identification documents and
In 2006 the Law Pages of the London Times profiled
fakealibi.co.uk, bizarrely promoted as "the World's
Only Legitimate Alibi Service" and "the only website that
gives you assistance, in whatever you are doing" ...
With the pressures of modern life many of us have occasion
to stray from our long term partners and dally with a
brief sexual or emotional relationship with a third party,
this is often a short term affair, inconsequential to
our long term plans and relationships, but with modern
communications, and media, it has become increasingly
difficult to be able to carry on such a temporary dalliance,
without risk of detection, Any chance of such a relationship
becoming public knowledge in any way whatsoever can put
an incredible strain on all parties concerned.
The service supposedly claims to have over 21,000 satisfied
customers who use it to provide cover for extramarital liaisons
(including fake invites to conferences, provision of false
accommodation info and misleading phone calls to a client’s
partner). Judging by its site it also offers private investigation
services in the US, UK, Belgium and Australia.
Family life, the home, business and children's welfare
can all be put on the line for what may indeed have been
a totally inconsequential short term flurry of sexual
or emotional feelings.
We have been established to provide a way out of this
situation, we offer a Service which can help to protect
your loved ones from undue anxiety, and help to ensure
the stability of a long term relationship and financial
security, by offering secure and professional handling
of "Alibi's" for you.
If you are a wannabe Danger Mouse FakeAlibi asks
Have you ever dreamed of living an alternative, secret
life? The majority of our agents are normal people living
ordinary lives, some are bankers, teachers even TV presenters
- but when they receive the call from us - they know an
exciting adventure is about to begin.
Perhaps someone has been watching too many Schwarzenegger
movies before writing copy (or creating a spoof).
Although most of our agents work part time and whenever
the need arises for their help they always free their
time for us, but some are now working full time - they
are our "Special Agents"
As of two months ago we now have a structure of command
for our organisation ... F.A Commander - Joint Commander
- Diamond Agent - Special Agent- Secret Agent - Agent
Arguably the service, if it is indeed for real, is legally
and ethically problematical. A FakeAlibi rep reportedly
commented that “We have a solicitor who advises us and if
we have a job that we feel is a bit too edgy, we consult
him”. There is no indication of what happens if it is misled.
The service is of course using its powers for good, rather
than for evil:
The people who come to us are already having affairs.
In some cases we are helping to save marriages. People
having affairs are often not doing so because they want
to destroy everything but because of any number of other
reasons. They might be frustrated because of the long-term
illness of their spouse or lonely because their partner
is always away. They want to preserve their marriages
and there might be children involved. People could get
hurt if everything came out, and by helping to conceal
the affair or fling we are actually assisting the stability
of family life.
Associate ReplicaDocs offers "novelty documents"
that look the same as legitimate UK bank statements, utility
bills, payslips and drivers licenses. A single bank statement,
utility bill and payslip costs £79.99. "Novelty"
doesn't come cheap: a "fully editable" template
for multiple documents costs £499.
The site cautions that
must observe and comply with all applicable regulations
and legislation. ... You agree in ordering any novelty
documents from us, that without exception they are not
to be used for financial gain, fraud, deception or any
other criminal activity.
wording is similar to that from degree
mills. The documents are not disfigured with inconvenient
warnings such as 'fake'. We are looking forward to action
by one of the major UK financial institutions for trademark
infringement, as -
'novelty' items feature the logos and names of real
institutions rather than fictitious entities such as
the Bank of Bongo-Bongo in a virtual
state supposedly based on far-distant asteroids
institutions are often the victims of financial scams
involving use of fake identity documents.
competitor fakeutilitys.com (archived here)
offered a "Fake UK Photo Card Driving Licence"
claimed to be "100% accurate to the originals ...
guaranteed to be identical in everyway to the real issue
'dvla' licences" for a mere £300, birth certificats,
insurance forms, bank statements and education certificates.
Theidshop.com boasts that
We can replicate most any passport upon request and
proper pricing. Our Fake Passports are of the highest
quality and look very near identical to an official
one. In addition we can work on a one-on-one basic with
you to create a completely custom passport job. Use
our fake passports in conjunction with our fake ID's
for a complete "New Identity" Package. Upon
request we can create a complete identity solution.
This can include a fake novelty id, fake passport and
several other different forms of identification such
as credit cards, checkbooks, utility bills and fake
corporate documents if needed. Let us stress that creating
our custom packages are only for individuals that are
serious about creating complete turn key identify [sic]
vendors such as doctorsnotestore.com have marketed 'novelty'
medical certificates, available online for people prepared
to pay $40 or upwards for a 'sick note'.
One Australian doctor and ethicist warned that novelty
medical certificate sites are "clearly inciting and
abetting fraud", noting that medical practitioners
would not divulge information about a patient's health
but could disclose whether a medical certificate had been
Can purchasers of bogus documentation be sure that it
won't be challenged? The answer is clearly no, given that
some public/private sector employers check quite legitimate
marriage by net?
Some offenders have gone a stage further, exploiting online
proxy marriage services (example archived here)
that enable people to gain a marriage certificate in a
country such as Mexico even though neither party to the
marriage is a national of that country or is present in
the country. Participants, indeed not be present at the
That has occasionally resulted in legal curiosities, such
as claims during an Irish law suit in 2008 that a woman
gained a Mexican proxy marriage without the knowledge
of her partner and then solicited a mafia-style 'hit'
on the new 'husband'. The would-be contract killer had
reportedly advertised his services online and used the
firstname.lastname@example.org email address!
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