Passport Fraud

Investigative report on passport fraud worldwide.

Six years after 9/11, an NBC News undercover investigation has found that the black market in fraudulent passports is thriving. On the streets of South America, NBC documented the sale of stolen and doctored passports, and travel papers prized by terrorists: genuine passports issued under false names. For a few thousand dollars, an undercover investigator was able to purchase several entirely new identities from organized criminal networks with access to corrupt government employees. The investigator obtained passports from Spain, Peru, and Venezuela and used the Peruvian and Venezuelan passports to travel widely in the Western Hemisphere, with practically no scrutiny.

Posted on January 8, 2008 at 1:59 PM24 Comments


Jack C Lipton January 8, 2008 2:15 PM

Just goes to show that the more valuable an identity is that the supply will materialize to handle demand.

Anonymous January 8, 2008 2:21 PM

I didn’t know mainstream news still had the gumption to investigate anything more than a police report or press briefing.

NBC, I’m impressed.

ps – where can I get a Venezuelan passport?

Roy January 8, 2008 3:21 PM

Now that Real ID is being mandated, bogus ones ought to be worth a pretty penny to those people who need them the most — the exact people the scheme is meant to be a defense against.

Jack C Lipton January 8, 2008 3:50 PM

You can NEVER escape “Supply and Demand”; controls only restrict the supply, jacking up the price, but demand will always exist. It’s human nature.

Mind you, you may seem to get more than you paid for… but, no matter what, you will pay for what you got, even though the price may not be in dollars.

Now for a bit of snarky commentary:
The biggest problem I see with the annoyances of “terrorism” is that the practitioners thereof grab the initiative, placing everyone else on the defensive.

Heck, look at other terminology, like “Defense of Marriage”, for instance– shouldn’t Marriage go on the Offensive, to gain ground? (Laughs maniacally)

I know, I know, we’re trying to keep our hands clean, but…

Carlos the Hackle January 8, 2008 5:05 PM


How do you know it was really “Shahida Tulaganova”? Did you check her ID?

Ben Rosengart January 8, 2008 6:10 PM

Anonymous@02:21pm posts for me — I didn’t think the mainstream media were still willing to commit felonies to expose the incompetence and hypocrisy of authority. Some bean-counter must have been asleep at the switch when the story was pitched.

Jack C Lipton January 8, 2008 8:38 PM

Anyone ever consider that any terrorist organization bent on destroying “western civilization” would want this to get out because it will cause further changes to increase frustration with “our” government(s).

Alex January 8, 2008 9:43 PM

The CIA does this all the time – I know someone who is in the CIA’s passport forgery department. The funny thing is how the hardest thing for them to do now is American passports with the RFID chips.

Nomen Publicus January 9, 2008 12:18 AM

The problem with identity is that it is a very slippy concept. RealID will not prevent a single terrorist act. If you have a home grown “terrorist”, they will have ReallID. Foreign terrorists will have a perfectly clean, genuine passport from some other country. At best, the authorities will be able to identify the body parts after an attack by matching them to the nearest identity document.

So why are governments everywhere spending billions on new digital identity documents rather than useful security measures?

Andrew January 9, 2008 1:37 AM

In completely unrelated news, an undercover investigator has lost their license for conspiracy to commit felonies and assist terrorist networks. Other co-conspirators elsewhere worldwide “have been brought to justice.”

“The Devil cannot abide to be mocked.”

supersnail January 9, 2008 4:59 AM

” ids prized by terrorists ”

OK how many of terrorists/martyres involved in the 9/11, London , Madrid incidents were using false documents? Answer 0.

For that matter how many members of ETA, IRA etc were in possesion of false documents when arrested. I think you will fiond the answer is very few.

Most terrorists are otherwise model citizens; they become terrorists because they believe in thier cause and want to do the “right thing” however misguided thier idea of the “right thing” is. As such they really have no need for false identities. This is particulary true of suicide bombers, why bother disguising yourself? You want the world to know who you are and the sacrifices you made for the cause.

John Ridley January 9, 2008 6:01 AM

Waddaya bet that these reporters have a hell of a time flying from now on, in retaliation for exposing this?

GiacomoL January 9, 2008 6:30 AM

Passport forgery is not a very useful tool for modern “jihad-type” terrorists, as they tend to blow themselves up. Who cares if the police identifies you after you’ve blown up something, since you’re dead anyway?

Mark January 9, 2008 6:59 AM

OK how many of terrorists/martyres involved in the 9/11, London , Madrid incidents were using false documents? Answer 0.

Actually in the case of 9/11 the answer is that about a third must have been using false documents.
Since several of the accused turned up alive after the event. Given the weakness of the evidence produced to identify the accused it wouldn’t be too much of a suprise if “all of them” were the actual case.

davesgonechina January 9, 2008 9:24 AM

If RFID tags are implemented in every host country, wouldn’t that curb doctored stolen passports? What’s the timeline before forgers start modifying or making their own RFID?

derf January 9, 2008 9:26 AM

The question is, at what point will the frog shake off the effect and notice he’s being boiled? Tighten the screws on ordinary citizens too much and you will create “revolutionaries” that already have valid IDs.

There are already 20 million illegals in the US with some form of false ID. What do you do with them on RealID implementation day?

Anonymous January 9, 2008 11:58 AM


the hardest thing for them to do now
is American passports with the RFID

Anybody can invent a system they can’t themselves break?

Fred Mora January 9, 2008 12:24 PM


The NBC article says: “The 9/11 Commission reported that U.S. authorities recovered passports belonging to four of the 19 hijackers. All of the recovered passports had “suspicious indicators” they had been fraudulently manipulated; two, the Commission concluded, were “clearly doctored.” ”

I am not sure that suicide terrorists are such a big market for fake passports. I do know that fraudsters, cons and international crime rings routinely use them for all kind of unsavory traffics.

Protection measures will raise the bar and put a higher price on fake passports. The effect will be a decrease on the number of petty criminals on the lam that are trying to travel on a fake ID to mask their own and avoid getting arrested at a border check. I doubt it will have an effect on well-funded criminals or terrorists.

Now the issue is whether or not the added cost and inconvenience of the new passport safety measures will be worth the trouble.

lidram January 9, 2008 4:21 PM

The USA’s multi billion dollar IT security program would probably give these passports a very low ‘terrorist rating’… cases like this highlight the imbecille ideas behind such programs.

thomas January 12, 2008 7:15 PM

I was perparing to install a wlan router for my parents. As there were several potential places for the router I mapped the channels and signal strength of neighbouring wlans by taking my laptop on a walk around the block. Nothing fancy – just a simple “iwlist wlan0 scan > address”. Simply recording at the potential router places wouldn’t have been sufficient because the neighbouring wlans’ transmission powers range from 8mW to 100mW.

I don’t know who called the cop – cops rarely go cursing in your neighbourhood and this one, yes a single cop, was certainly not cruising. He stopped me and demanded to know what I was doing. After showing and explaining the wlan mapping he still hinted that my behaviour was dubious and asked for my ID card(in Berlin/Germany). I replied that it was at home – 30m further down the road. Somehow he didn’t like the idea of letting me fetch it or going there together thus he asked me for my name/address/birthday/birthplace. He radioed the police station to check the information and let me go afterwards.

What is wrong with that picture?
1) A single cop in a police van can seldom catch a walking criminal in my part of the town. There are simply too many foot-only paths.
2) If the cop would arrest anybody it would be his word versus the arrested one’s. This is rarely a healthy setup. Two cops and one arrested isn’t perfect but it is usually a better setup.
3) A lazy cop who checks that the ID data is valid but fails to ensure that the ID belongs to the person in question. Simply providing an ID with the right gender and age would have been sufficient.

The person ID link is – neglecting any privacy and use-of-ID issues – a paramount problem in any ID system I’ve seen so far. Photo IDs might seem to provide a very reliable link, but they don’t. Simply imagine a tourist group of say far-eastern or African tourist in Germany. Most likely they could swap their ID cards and few officers would notice the broken person ID card links.

Fake IDs can be a serious security issue but the use of “wrong” IDs is far more common and harder to solve(age restrictions & public drinking …).

sunny March 17, 2008 10:17 AM

Wake up and smell the coffee.Terrorists do use fake ids[extensively I might add]
Their favorite was synthetic id theft.They use them to enter and set up for a suicide attack.Once the ball is rolling sufficently to see that it will go off without a hitch,many switch back to their real names.[they want the credit then]
It isnt a problem?Tell that to the virginia dmv were they managed to obtain a multitude of dr licenses.Tell that to the virginia state residents who have had their id stolen.I do however, suggest, if you do decide to confront the victims about the supposedly non problem,that you do so at a distance of a few feet.It will be easier for you to keep your nose in one piece and keep your teeth in your mouth.
I also suggest that you acquaint yourself with the terrorist group known as jaamat al fuquara.They have helped AQ/Taliban dispose of as well as laundering dirty illegal ids.THey have at least six compounds around the us.Unlike AQ they dont have the money or desire to open up many front businesses/charitys.They instead infiltrate otherwise legitimate businesses.Their crimes range from id theft to arson extortion murder harrasement stalking.Unfortunately the few legit businesses[surface only]that they did open was conviently two security services.How lovely.If a victim did catch on thay had the ability to find track and silence them.All under the guise of a security company.
One of the top medical advisors in gov Kaines cabinet has been found tied to terrorism.First step of allowing the enemy to torture our own citizens with in our own borders begins with a first step.This may be it or just the tip of a much larger iceberg.
Still think that terrorists wont do just about anything?Talk to a virginia native whove had thier id stolen then wrapped in a synthetic fashion.You will begin to understand just how dangerous these a holes really are

ana liu March 7, 2010 5:56 AM

I read the passport fraud.
How about help me write an article using other country passport fraud in entering US and become a US citizen. I know someone who so happen to be my ex and was able to fool the US govt and now become a US Citizen and I am reporting this to ICE and as of today nothing has been done. And there are more and more people doing this kind of passport fraud in entering US to beome US citizen . Hope I can hear from you through my email.

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