Hundreds of Thousands of Possible Cases of Foreign Visitor Identity Fraud

After spending more than a decade in finance, Michael Volpe has worked as a freelance journalist since 2009. He's based in Chicago. Volpe published his first book in October 2012, titled "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall." His new book, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers," is now available.


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The status of a flaw in the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) entry and exit biometric system that has already led to hundreds of thousands of potential cases of identity fraud remains unresolved even after the Inspector General for DHS briefed a House Homeland Security Sub-Committee last week.

On August 13, 2012, the Office for Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security published a report in which it detailed 825,000 cases of potential identity theft in the US-VISIT system. Their report was entitled “US-VISIT Faces Challenges in Identifying and Reporting Multiple Biographic Identities.”

US-VISIT is the biometric system for every foreigner attempting to enter or exit by air or by water. Any foreigner that enters or exits the country by air or sea first has their fingerprints taken and those fingerprints are put into a database and shared with other agencies for past criminal history or any other potential red flags.

The DHS OIG’s office found that a fatal flaw in this system means that the system doesn’t recognize when the same individual enters and/or exits using different names. In other words, if the same individual first enters using one name and exits using another name, the US-VISIT system won’t recognize and match-up the fingerprints to both names. As such, authorities don’t know if the same person had previously entered the country under a different name because of this flaw.

On September 11, 2012, Charles Edwards, the current Inspector General for DHS, testified at the Maritime and Border Sub-Committee hearing in the House Homeland Security Committee. He testified as part of larger hearings on preventing future terrorist attacks held on the anniversary of 9/11.

“The Automated Biometrics Identification System (IDENT) maintained by US‐VISIT contains hundreds of thousands of discrepant records. We also determined that the identity resolution processes at US‐VISIT are manual and not specifically targeted to identifying individuals who may have presented fraudulent identities to attempt to enter the United States,” said Edwards at those hearings.

He continued, “The manual review process presents challenges considering the large volume of data that exist on travelers who sought entries into the United States. Specifically, our analysis of data from IDENT identified more than 800,000 instances affecting 375,000 individuals where the name and/or date of birth did not match other records with the same fingerprint identification number.

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  • Chezwick

    Reminds me a bit of Obamacare…and the projected savings of HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars due to the anticipated elimination of waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. What guarantee do we have that such savings will actually materialize? What is to prevent waste and fraud from permeating the new system once it's in place? How gullible can we be?

    • Raymond in DC

      The more complex the system and the more money involved, the greater the waste and fraud.

  • dmw

    " “These hundreds of thousands of records with inconsistent biographic data limit the effectiveness and efficiency of using biometrics to identify and prevent the use of fraudulent identities at U.S. ports of entry.”

    Because of conflicting 9/11 ceremonies, the hearing had to be cut short and none of the members had time to ask the IG any specific questions about this issue and potential solutions. "

    GAG ME WITH A SPOON! So many Keystone Cops jumping in the back of a paddy wagon that the front wheels go up and the vehicle crashes into a pole. Can't figure out if God, Satan, or both have such a sense of humor. Our new area of self-government at work? Not!

  • slhancock

    This is outrageous! What could possibly go wrong?

  • Schlomotion

    "US-VISIT is the biometric system for every foreigner attempting to enter or exit by air or by water. Any foreigner that enters or exits the country by air or sea first has their fingerprints taken and those fingerprints are put into a database and shared with other agencies for past criminal history or any other potential red flags."

    That is not the whole truth. Not only foreigners, but US citizens have their fingerprints taken too and put in a database. I had my fingerprints taken when I came back from Iceland in 2006 by a very terse swino-sapien in a blue suit.

  • jacob

    If from the head up, the whole administration is one of sorcerer apprentices, is there anything different to
    be expected ???
    I'm 80 plus years old and flying recently north from Ft, Lauderdale airport, in the screening I went through,
    the only things missing was to get nude and have them inspecting my body cavities,because I had even
    to empty my pockets of papers and money bills….

  • http://www.eyerideonline.com/ Web cam

    Yup, that scamming performance of biometric system is acclaimed and outstanding as it is significant to protect data base security and pro active to escape from cyber crime and hacked. I think using of biometric system is most effective at present.