Feeds

Awed fraudsters defeated by UK's passport interviews

No fakes detected - terrorists all move to Belgium

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Interviews for first time passport applicants have been massively successful - because, er, no fraudulent applications at all have been detected since the government introduced the system last May. In answer to a Freedom of Information request, the Home Office said last week that 38,391 interviews had been held to date, 222 applications were currently under investigation, but that so far no application had been rejected.

An Identity & Passport Service spokesman told the Press Association, optimistically, that interviews discouraged people from making false passport applications in the first place. He also claimed that IPS had detected 6,500 fraudulent passport applications last year. These will have been rejected before the interview stage, although not all will have been made by first time applicants.

But that 6,500 claim is a bit of a puzzle. In January of this year the Home Office Minister i/c identity, Meg Hillier, said that for the 11 months to 30 September 2006 IPS estimated that 0.25 per cent of passport applications, or 16,500 cases, were believed to be fraudulent. A further 1.61 per cent (105,000) included "some element of false declaration", but the identity and eligibility of these individuals "was not otherwise in doubt" (answer to Parliamentary question).

As IPS clearly differentiates between an "element of false declaration" and attempting to obtain a passport fraudulently, its definition of passport fraud obviously has some flexibility to it.

Answering another question in the same vein last July, Hillier said that IPS was then investigating "some 2,000 cases" of suspected fraud. Which puts the total of 222 interview-derived investigations into perspective. The Home Office has also claimed in the past that half of all fraudulent applications are made via the first time application process.

Doubts about the actual rates of fraud and detection are further reinforced by IPS figures, produced in answer to an FOIA request in August 2006. These put detected fraudulent applications at 1,126 in 2005, 1,880 in 2004 and 1,571 in 2003, the overall trend being downwards since 2001.

Obviously, not everybody can be right here. If the 6,500 detection number IPS is now claiming is genuine (i.e., not the consequence of a more brutal approach to the odd "element of false declaration"), then historically IPS must have been relatively useless at nicking passport fraud villains. If however IPS' estimate of 16,500 is correct, then the 6,500 actual detections indicate that IPS might not be as useless as it was, but that it is still fairly useless.

And the point of interviews? It seems bizarre that in ten months, interviewing almost 40,000 people, IPS has not been able to identify a single one as sufficiently obviously fraudulent to reject them. Are all the would-be first time fraudsters sufficiently smart to realise they'll be nicked if they apply? Or are all of them sufficiently smart to sail through the interview anyway? There really ought to be some kind of population in between these two extremes, and 222 doubtfuls doesn't look large enough to accommodate it.

According to Hillier, IPS is due to complete a sampling exercise similar to the one that produced the 2006 estimates next month. If the Home Office claims that half of all frauds were first time applications, and that the interview process deters frauds, are correct, then the numbers this time around - covering the first year of interviews - should be substantially down.

If not, then Tory and Liberal claims that the interview process, which involved setting up a network of 70 offices at a cost of £93 million, is an expensive waste of time will be borne out. Unless of course you were to view the interview centre network as softening the population up for mass biometric enrolment, starting 2012... ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?