Guide 2 Identity Theft - How To Protect Yourself
Guide 2 Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft
How It Happens
Types of Identity Theft
Commercial Identity Theft
Watch Out For
Credit Card Risks
Debit & ATM Cards
Spoofs & Phishing
Unsolicited Card Offers
Credit Reporting Agencies
If Your Identity Is Stolen
Guide 2 Identity Theft > Passports
Passport Identity Theft
Passports have the reputation of being a very authoritative means of proving identity. They were created to see people safely across national borders all around the world. Naturally, such an important identity document has become a prime target for the identity thieves and other criminals.
In Frederick Forsyth's book, The Day of the Jackal, the assassin searches in a cemetery for the identity of a person born about the same time as him, but who died in childhood. He then applies for a passport in that person's name. That book was set in the times of French President de Gaulle, and long before the widespread use of computers. Electronic data matching has made it easier for the authorities to match births and deaths in recent years, and to close loopholes like that.
However, that does not mean that there are no loopholes for imaginative identity thieves, however. In a recent case, alleged operatives from the secret service of a foreign country were recently caught trying to get a passport issued to them in New Zealand. Those involved simply took the identity of a disabled citizen, who they thought unlikely to ever apply for a passport, and presented an apparently credible and routine passport application in his name, but without his knowledge.
Another issue is that there is a thriving black market industry in false passports in some countries. Criminals may be involved in reproducing passports, or of stealing and then modifying real passports (for example by inserting different photographs). Illegal immigration and people-trafficking are usually the main motivations for these activities.
Passport identity thieves now face increasingly formidable barriers. The authorities have improved security to attempt to combat illegal immigration, and following the terrorist incidents of recent years. There have been many improvements in passport design, issuing procedures and border checking procedures. Additionally, many countries now insert data chips into the latest biometric passports and exchange information on travellers.
If you lose your passport, it is a relatively serious matter, because of the potential for it to be misused. If you do lose your passport, you will need to promptly contact the issuing authorities, usually your nation's embassy if you are in a foreign country. A passport, possibly temporary, can usually be issued within a short period to allow you to continue with your journey, but you may be delayed a few days. In most countries the police authorities will also take an interest.
The best thing to do, is to take care not to lose your passport. When in foreign countries, most travellers keep their passport with them at all times. You should consider keeping your passport and other valuables in a money belt under your clothing rather than in a bag which can be snatched. Another option is to use security deposit boxes at your hotel - in some countries, hotels may require you to deposit your passport with them during your stay - in some cases for police inspection.
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The information on this site is designed to help you understand the issues and improve your protection. No method of protection can be absolute. We recommend that you keep abreast of the ever-changing issues and do your own research to keep informed.
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