New passport checks foil banking scamsService weeds out the dodgy documents

14 August 2007

A new passport checking service has prevented criminals conning banks out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Chief executive of the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service (IPS), James Hall, said cases included a fraudster who tried to set up a business bank account with a £500,000 loan facility.

In that case, the IPS's Passport Validation Service was the final check on a customer who had already passed a series of other credit probes.

Mr Hall said: 'In the first three months of using the service one mortgage provider estimates to have stopped fraud in excess of £126,000 solely from use of the Passport Validation Service.

'The service is now used by all major high street banks and in the last six months alone has helped stop the use of over 200 stolen or faked passports in fraudulent financial transactions.'

Telegraphic transfer

The service - made available to financial institutions just over a year ago - helps banks avoid being caught out by fraudsters who abuse the 290,000 British passports reported lost or stolen each year.

It marks a new departure for the IPS, which would traditionally examine passport details only when the document was renewed every 10 years.

Other frauds which were prevented by the service include mortgages worth £195,000 and £172,000, a £169,000 telegraphic transfer and a £2,300 cash withdrawal on a credit card.

A spokesman for one unnamed high street bank which used the checking service said: 'A customer applied for a business bank account, with a lending facility of £500,000.

'The applicant passed all of the credit checks - only the identification needed to be presented before the accounts could be approved.

Forged document

'The application and ID documents were sent to the central lending department to be signed off - staff called PVS to have the passport checked.

'It turns out the document was a forgery, so the application was declined.

'Although no arrest was made it stopped a potential loss of half a million pounds.'

If a fraud is uncovered the IPS will investigate the dodgy documents, and arrests can sometimes be made if banks are able to call police while a fraudster is on their premises.

An IPS spokesman said he was unable to estimate a total amount which had been saved by the checking service.

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