KYC AML Guide: the Clock shows the average reeding time of the blog14 min Read


KYC AML Guide: the Clock shows the average reeding time of the blogMay 13, 2024

Understanding Identity Document Forgery and Its Consequences

Fraud has changed a lot in the digital age. Everything is online now, including our finances. People can easily tamper with Photoshop images, and original content can be purchased online. Anyone can sit at a computer and submit fake, forged documents or stolen information to perform tricks online. Document fraud has become the third-largest crime in the world. According to 69% of companies surveyed by Regula, identity fraud recognition is one of the biggest challenges for companies worldwide. This blog will delve into identity document forgery, its types, and penalties.

Belal Mahmoud

KYC Product Consultant

What is Identity Document Forgery?

Identity document forgery involves copying or altering official documents issued by authorities by unauthorized individuals. They aim to deceive those who check the documents about the identity or status of the person holding them. The act of fabricating or falsifying identity documents or other items to mislead and profit from them is known as forgery. According to the Annual ID Fraud Report 2022, document fraud has increased by more than 30 percent each year. In 2022, the number of documents forgery increased, with passports (40%) taking the first spot, followed by identity cards (26%). Document fraud is around 24%, up from 30% in 2021. Pakistan, India, and China occupy the top three positions for passport fraud with 41%, 40% and 39% respectively. This also applies to ID cards.

Document Frogery includes the creation of a false document from scratch, or deliberately changing a genuine document to add, delete, or modify information, while presenting it as original. Fake documents can include photo substitution, data alteration, changes in visa, or ID numbers, etc. The following infographic shows how you can spot document fraud.

How to Spot Document Fraud

According to Sumsub, more than 50% of document fraud worldwide is attributed to five countries:

Country Fraud Percentage Document Type
Vietnam 10.1% ID card
Bangladesh 8.1% ID card
Pakistan 6% ID card
Nigeria 2.7% ID card
USA 2.4% Driving License

CBS News reported on a scam in Denver, Colorado that is hurting immigrants and putting Americans at risk of identity theft as well as reduced government revenue. Criminals sell fake IDs, such as Social Security cards, to immigrant job seekers for about $120. With long wait times and expensive legal permits, immigrants buy these papers to support their families.

In another report, the Aliens Division of Attica, with support from Europol, targeted a criminal network in Athens involved in document fraud (falsified travel and ID documents) and migrant smuggling. This operation resulted in seizures of over 4,650 illegal documents, among other achievements.

With the increase in identity document forgery, it’s crucial to prioritize thorough document verification.

Types of Identity Document Forgery

Identity fraud has been around since the first ID document was made. There are many tricks and techniques that criminals use.

1 Mannual Alteration

These include original documents that were issued by legal agencies and stolen from their original owners. Fraudsters change or remove some physical information, such as a picture or name. They can also add fake entry/exit stamps to passports that contain visas. Changing information is also called forgery.

2 Counterfeiting

Some fake documents are created from scratch. To create a passport or ID card, fraudsters can contact companies that make security features and give them access to paper such as stamps, UV dull paper, holograms, and ink pads. They can also use blank documents as a canvas.

Types of Identity Document Forgery


Blank document fraud is a distinct form of document fraud where blank but official-looking documents with original signatures and seals are misused. It starts with obtaining or stealing such documents, which can range from blank checks to pre-signed official forms. Fraudsters then forge these documents by entering false information and using the original authenticity or signatures to lend undue credibility to the forged information.

3 Computer Simulation

The freedom of information technology has led to an increase in synthetic identity fraud. Another way is to sell free ready-to-use blanks for specific types of ID documents. There are also digital services that allow you to create an ID card or driver’s license from scratch. Since this process usually takes a few minutes and results in a cost of $10 per product, many forged identity documents are produced in this way.

4 Pesudo Document

This type of identity document forgery occurs when codes are copied from official documents such as passports or national ID cards. This is done so professionally that no regulatory authority can detect such strange things immediately.

5 Camouflage Documents

Camouflage documents are produced to mimic official documents. They often contain the names of issuers that do not exist or do not legally issue such documents. Its main purpose is fraud, identity theft, and other deceptive activities by exploiting the authenticity of official documents.

6 Forged Documents

Forged documents are the intentional alteration of real documents with false information. This may include changing dates, names, numbers, or other important details in an official document. Fake invoices, identity documents, legal contracts, and fake academic certificates can be created. Any document of significant value or authority can be forged.

An example of a forged passport featuring a magnified Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) area.

An example of a forged passport featuring a magnified Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) area.

7 Image Fraud

It focuses on manipulating images of documents rather than the documents themselves. This includes editing scanned images or important documents such as ID cards, financial records, or other official documents. Passport and ID card photos usually have extra protection like ink stamps, embossing, or laminates with visible security features. Fraudsters use extremely fake graphics and engineering techniques to alter important elements in document images. Altered elements include text, dates, and photographs, giving a misleading impression of the original document.

A forged Greek ID card with an ink stamp is shown below

A forged Greek ID card with an ink stamp is shown below

8 Identity Theft

Identity theft begins with the theft of personal information, such as names, addresses, and financial information, which is then used to create or change an identity, passport, or credit card for illegal purposes, such as opening bank accounts. Synthetic identity fraud involves creating new identities by mixing real and fake information, often by copying codes from real documents such as national ID cards. This type of identity document forgery does not necessarily modify existing documents, but instead creates entirely new identities, presenting a unique challenge in the fight against fraud.

Also Read: How to prevent identity theft with KYC?

Document Frogery in Various Industries

Identity document forgery occurs in many industries as shown in the picture below. These frauds include identity theft, credit card fraud, stolen equipment, forged receipts, Illegal access to government services activities, false insurance claims, fake certificates, and real estate fraud. Therefore, these fraudulent activities lead to loss of money, trust loss, and credibility damage across all sectors.

Document Frogery in Various Industries

Laws For Identity Document Forgery

The following list shows the different laws against document forgery in different countries.

The following list shows the different laws against document forgery in different countries.

Penalties for Identity Document Forgery

Identity document forgery is a crime in all countries, but the penalties vary from country to country.

United States Forgery is a serious crime throughout the United States, with state-specific penalties. In some states, offenders can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, fined up to $25,000, placed on probation, and forced to pay restitution to the victim.
United Kingdom The penalty for forgery in the UK is 10 years imprisonment, a fine, or both, under Act 1 of the Forgery and Forgery Act 1981.
United Arab Emirates Under Article 216 of the Penal Code, falsifying documents registered in the UAE carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Electronic fraud, as defined in the UAE under the Cyber ​​Crimes Act (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012), can result in imprisonment, fines, or both, depending on the seriousness of the offense

Germany In Germany, forgery under Section 267 of the Criminal Code is punishable by up to ten years in prison, depending on the gravity of the offense.
Australia In Australia, forgery under section 253 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
France Under Article 441 of the French Penal Code, forgery carries a fine of up to €75,000 and up to five years in prison, especially if it involves the use of forged documents.

Securing Your Business Against Document Forgery

Technological developments are assisting ID thieves in refining their strategies. Businesses need to be alert and take precautions against fraud and identity theft even in the face of government and law enforcement organizations’ best efforts to improve document security.

Using trustworthy authentication software that can identify and stop fraud is one of the finest methods to shield yourself from the risks associated with forged paperwork. The KYC AML guide offers vendor analysis and KYC technology buying consulting services to assist you in locating the most effective KYC identity verification methods for document verification.


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Belal Mahmoud
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Belal possess over 8 years experience in the KYC Identity Verification industry. He has consulted KYC solutions for over 20 new economy companies at DIFC and ADGM while ensuring a seamless technical integration and helped in jurisdictional compliance audits.