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08 March 2017

In these days of super high tech workings and gadgets and gizmos of all sorts, more and more personal identification is being targeted. Fake passports are, despite all the barriers put in place to stop them, still out there, and it can be important to know how to spot one if you are presented with one. It’s not always an easy task, but by carefully checking every passport you come into contact with, you’ll be able to stop a lot of criminals doing… well, whatever it was they were planning to do with that fake passport. And don’t forget, the passport is often just the start of it – someone’s entire identity may have been stolen which, apart from being highly illegal, can leave them with financial issue for many years to come.

New research has proven that the majority of people cannot quickly tell a fake passport from a real one. Around 70 percent of people are happy to assume that what they are being shown is real simply because it looks the part. But many fake passports can truly look like the real thing – it doesn’t mean they aren’t fake and it doesn’t mean the criminals using them should be allowed to get away with using them.

The research also shows that it is those aged over 55 who feel least confident when it comes knowing the difference between a real and forged passport. In this age range, it is only five percent who would say they could easily spot the difference.

These figures are worrying because, with more and more interaction taking place online, it is important to know who and what to trust. Not being able to detect false documents is a potentially small problem that denotes bigger issues ahead.

So what can be done?

Firstly, check the quality of the document itself. A real passport will be manufactured to an extremely high standard – it needs to be able to withstand the wear and tear that will be asked of it. But more than what it is made of and how it is made, what does it look like? Does it look as high quality as a UK passport usually does? Is the embossed design on the front straight and even? Feel the texture – does it feel right?

Next, consider the fluorescence of the passport. Fluorescence basically means how bright it glows under ultra violet light. For a real passport, the glow should be a dull one. If it glows brightly then it is a fake.

A real passport is full of watermarks. You may not even have noticed them up until now, but they are there, and they are crucial when it comes to security. Shine a light from above, something like a torch, and you’ll soon see the watermarks show up. No watermarks? No good. It’s a fake. But of course, some criminals are able to even fake things such as watermarks. What to do then? Well, the watermarks in a true passport will be subtly shaded, there will be distinct variations between light and dark. With counterfeit passports the ‘watermark’ (assuming there is one) will have been printed onto the surface, and these shadings won’t be there.

Genuine passports have random security fibres placed across each page. Although forgers try their best, they often end up creating patterns when trying to create something completely random. So patterns are a big giveaway.

And then we come to the patterns within the pages of the passport itself. They are never simple, they are always complex patterns and pictures to make copying more difficult, and they consist of solid fine lines too. Why is this important? Usually a counterfeit passport will have patterns that are made up of small dots rather than fine lines due to the printing methods employed. Commercial printing simply cannot match up to the quality of specialist security printing. That extends to the feel of these images too. In a genuine passport it will feel rough – fake passports feel much smoother.

Then we move onto the holographic element of a passport. These highly detailed devices show different colours and designs when they are shown in different lights. Tilt them one way and you will see one thing, tilt them another and you’ll see something else. Finding a fake document with a real hologram on it is virtually impossible. They don’t work in the way they are supposed to, and they simply don’t look right. 

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