employees group by coaching at office

Genuine or fake ID cards – training courses help with detection

published on 20.04.2020

Trying to determine with the naked eye whether an ID card or passport is genuine? That’s next to impossible and the reason why government agency employees are being trained to detect forgeries. State-of-the-art document verification devices can also be useful.

Misuse is expensive

It is important for authorities to be able to detect false or forged documents. Forged ID documents can be used for far-reaching fraud. One example of this is when an applicant uses undetected forged ID documents to obtain a registration certificate from the authorities at their place of residence and then opens up a business. Accounts are then opened in the name of the new company, loans are applied for and leasing and mobile phone contracts are concluded. Long before the fraud is discovered, the perpetrator disappears – only to continue with a new identity a short time later. Abuse can also have very costly consequences for public authorities themselves, for example, if benefits are paid out on the basis of forged identity documents, such as social welfare in the form of cash or non-cash benefits, unemployment benefits or children’s allowance.

Many employees at public authorities are being trained in detecting forged documents. This involves placing a stack of different documents, for example, ID cards, driving licences, residence permits, passports and provisional documents, on a table and staff are tasked with finding out whether the documents are genuine or forged. The forged ID documents are samples and are used exclusively for this purpose.

Look, touch, tilt

Many forgeries are so simple that they can be immediately detected when viewed up close, held up against the light, by tilting the document or by running a finger over it. Changes made to the machine-readable zone (MLZ) on documents are also frequently detected because this is difficult to manipulate.

If you take a close look at the German passport, you will discover amazing details: extremely fine guilloches, iridescent colours, hidden microlettering. Or the text and the notes of the German national anthem on the passport datapage. Just like the many small Brandenburg Gates and the tiny guilloches in the form of notes. Concealed as a watermark on the paper pages, Europe’s stars form a circle around the federal eagle. If the passport is quickly flipped through, one of the stars moves through the circle – the passport as a flipbook.

"730 documents were checked in Hamm during the test phase in February 2017, in eight cases the police were involved."

City of Hamm

Verification devices are faster and more accurate

However, some of the security features remain invisible even for experienced staff. After all, it is almost impossible to be familiar with the details of each and every security feature – especially of foreign documents. Some of them only become visible when technical aids are used, such as UV light. More and more authorities are now using document verification devices to better detect forged ID cards. While traditional manual inspection using UV light and a magnifying glass takes around one to two minutes, the verification device is much faster, i.e. around ten seconds, and can also check the electronic chip in the document if present. The integrated verification procedures and the reference database for documents are constantly updated and have a very high detection rate for forgeries compared to the rest of the world. Any irregularities in the automated verification procedure are displayed directly on the monitor. A reference image appears on the screen for comparison. The data on the electronic chip can also be compared and checked using defined standardized procedures.

Berlin is to be equipped

A few years ago, the Neukölln district of Berlin used document verification devices to test the authenticity of documents submitted by citizens1. During the test phase, 40 fraud attempts with forged identity documents were detected. Without the verification devices, these forgeries would have gone unnoticed. Now, document verification devices are to be installed in all of Berlin’s districts.