Today, one fraud technique outclasses the counterfeiting or falsification of identity documents. This modus operandi, also known as “look-alike”, is based on physical resemblance and has become a veritable fraud of physiognomy.
It’s true that the bearer of a usurped document will use stratagems to get past police or customs checks, opting for clothing identical to that in the photograph of the identity document he or she is usurping, for example, or even the same type of hairstyle, and the usurper will generally be of a similar ethnicity to the usurped person.
Used by irregular immigration networks by air or land for candidates wishing to reach Europe or the North American continent, this phenomenon is therefore worldwide, and the technical control tools for document fraud (magnifying glass, UV magnifier, etc.) are useless in preventing it.
The current challenges of facial recognition are to determine whether the person using a third party’s document is the legitimate bearer, but it is also becoming a phenomenon to be apprehended in the fight against money laundering linked to organized crime or its financing, particularly for terrorist groups.
Indeed, on this last point, several examples show that this modus operandi is used for people in the “zone” wishing to reach Europe by usurping identity or travel documents using the “look-alike” technique.
Above is an example of a French national who was intercepted in Turkey returning from a “zone” by usurping a Swedish travel document and using the look-alike technique.
As you can see, if you don’t pay attention to facial features, and in particular the shape of the ears, which remains a prime indicator of facial recognition, anyone could be fooled. Same face shape, same haircut, rather similar nose… And yet they are two totally different people.
In 2015, two men from Belgium were stopped at Istanbul airport. Police discover 150 French passports hidden in mini pizza ovens. Authentic documents destined for Syria, intended to enable individuals to enter the Schengen area by land or air.
More than just a fashion phenomenon, it is now a genuine fraud technique used by criminal groups of all kinds: illegal immigration, terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking…
The situations multiply… One example is the case of an individual using a French travel document to open over-the-counter or online bank accounts, the purpose of which is to transmit RIBs to social organizations for unwarranted applications for social benefits (nearly 700 applications for the activity allowance between December 2019 and October 2020). Secondly, the funds improperly collected by the fraud were laundered to pay the family’s apartment rents and prepay consumer loans.
Tomorrow, someone could come to you using the “look-alike” technique in connection with a business project, the signing of a contract or the opening of a bank account that could be motivated by money laundering or the financing of terrorism.
However, when faced with such a situation, it’s possible to detect the usurper and thwart a possible fraud by questioning the individual, analyzing the face or the person’s behavior. In fact, nearly 5% of identity documents presented in France to open a bank account or obtain social benefits are forgeries.
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