How to Tell a Fake Foreign Passport

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Some teens under 21 take fake passports into liquor stores in hopes of purchasing alcohol.
Some teens under 21 take fake passports into liquor stores in hopes of purchasing alcohol. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

In a matter of minutes, anyone can purchase a fake or "novelty" foreign passport. Criminals use these passports to commit crimes or escape the country illegally. The punishment for passport fraud is serious; violators face 5 to 10 years in a federal prison. The sentence jumps to 15 years if the offense is in conjunction with trafficking narcotics or illegal drugs. If the passport fraud is committed with the intent for national or international terrorism, the maximum sentence is 25 years in a federal prison. Examine the passport closely and trust your instincts if you feel something is not right.

Examine the surface of the passport. Feel for changes in thickness, raised edges, bumps or traces of glue. It may have been re-laminated or glued back together after being altered.

Examine the photograph. Compare the picture to the person presenting the passport. Check to see that they are the same person.

Check the date of birth listed on the passport. Look at the passport holder and examine if they are the age that is listed. Consider asking for a driver's license to authenticate the birth date in the passport.

Compare the information in the Machine Readable Zone with the information listed in the blanks above. Often, forgers forget to change the MRZ information as it falls within other coded text. The MRZ information is the text at the bottom of the passport that looks typed. It should contain the name, date of expiration, and the passport number amongst numbers and symbols (<,>,#). All information should match.

Check holographic symbols (if the passport has any). Look for glitches or missing pieces of the holograms. Use a magnifying glass if you have it.

Tips & Warnings

  • When in doubt, ask for a second opinion from a coworker or a supervisor.
  • Have printed photos of real foreign passports to compare to the passport in question.

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