Checking identity documents: can your team spot a fake?

Checking identity documents: can your team spot a fake?

Fake ID documents are a constant and growing threat to employers and businesses.

Employing candidates who have used fake identity documents can have a number of negative consequences:

Security risk - individuals who’ve obtained employment using false documents are also at a higher risk of committing fraud or data theft within their roles, potentially causing greater liability for employers if there is a data breach.

Reputational risk – fake passports and other ID documents are closely linked to organised crime, terrorist groups, and the exploitation of vulnerable people via crimes such as trafficking. Being linked to this sort of activity can only have negative effects on your business’s reputation.

Legal risk - Employers who are caught knowingly employing people who do not have a right to work in the UK face criminal charges, which can land them with unlimited fines or even imprisonment. But even if the employer isn’t aware that their employee is an illegal worker, they could be liable for a fine of up to £20,000, unless they can prove that proper care has been taken to ascertain whether or not the documents they’ve presented are genuine.

Why training is important

Fake identity documents can potentially be very damaging to businesses financially, reputationally, and in terms of security. Therefore, it is important to put in place robust measures to ensure the risk of fake documents passing muster is minimised.

In recent months, digital right to work checks have been used increasingly by businesses to check that new hires have leave to work in the UK. Over this time, more and more fraudulent ID documents have been exposed, as the technology that powers digital right to work uses AI and machine learning to spot forged or stolen documentation to a greater degree of accuracy.

However, digital right to work options are currently only usable by people in possession of an in-date UK passport, which means that 1 in 5 work seekers in the UK are currently unable to participate. Therefore, face-to-face checks still need to be available to work seekers, and this is where fraudsters are most likely to attempt to gain work illegally.

Therefore, while efforts are being made to ensure digital ID is more inclusive, it’s important to ensure your staff receive training on how to spot fake ID, and that you employ robust internal processes to record your efforts.

The challenges of spotting fake identity documents

The quality of false documents of all kinds is significantly better than most people expect. There’s a lot of money to be made from selling fake ID documents, and fraudsters invest large sums into obtaining the technology that can replicate everything from perforations and watermarks to UV-reactive paper, holograms and even laser engraving. This means that high quality fake passports, driving licences, and other ID documentation can be difficult to spot.

They’re also relatively easy to obtain. Openly on social media, there are numerous advertisements for ID documents for sale, comprising genuine and completely false ID documents, of many different nationalities and document types.

Every advertisement is a potential scam, and cases where genuine documents are for sale suggest that theft or other crime has been committed to obtain them.

According to research carried out by Beruku, from November 2022 to date, 2621 documents have been found being advertised on social media, of which:

  • 52% were driving licences (63% of which purported to be from the UK)
  • 18% were passports
  • 13% were visas
  • 10% were identity cards
  • 7% were residence permits.
  • 1017 were compromised genuine documents

62 individuals found on advertised UK driving licences were listed as company directors and attributed to over 100 companies.

Also online is the significant threat of high-quality raw materials being available for purchase from abroad at a minimal cost.  For instance, blank driving license cards, and high quality hologram stickers can be purchased for pennies – authorities are currently tracking purchasers to crack down on the creation of forgeries.

Build robust processes and maintain and paper trail

While the goal is to prevent fraudsters from successfully committing fraud using fake ID, the worst can sometimes happen; in those cases it’s important that you can prove that you’ve taken as many steps as you reasonably can to prevent document fraud in your business.

Therefore, accurate record keeping is key – being able to prove that checks have been made by suitably trained people can help you to make the case that robust measures were put in place. While investment in training and technology is not strictly required, it not only helps to catch fraudsters, but also gives a good impression to regulators should they have cause to investigate your business.

It's also vital that you maintain high levels of data security around your employees’ personal information – businesses can be a source of stolen documents as well as the potential victims of fraud, so ensuring that copies of documents are held securely and that access is restricted only to those who require it is important too.

Stay protected with Reed Screening

To ensure your business protects its employees, reputation, and business performance when working against dishonest candidates, robust screening and secure processes are key.

Pre-employment screening can help you minimise the risk, both in terms of legal liability and in terms of lost productivity and performance from an unsuitable hire. At Reed Screening we specialise in providing fast, accurate screening services that give you the confidence that your employees can be trusted, allowing you to get on with growing your business.

To find out more, get in touch today.