Unmasked – the identity impersonators

With all the news stories about cybercrime and online identity theft, it is easy to forget that criminals are still using the old physical methods of impersonation with great success.  A recent story about driving test cheats shows the lengths to which people are prepared to go to get what they want – in this case, a UK driving licence.  Organised crime groups have not been slow to realise the potential for money-making, and they offer three main services: driver impersonation (where stand-ins take theory and practical tests in place of learners – look at that creepy latex mask), illegal instructors (who are not registered to teach), and corrupt translators (who provide the correct answers in exchange for cash – and here’s another example of that particular scam).

So what’s all this to do with money laundering, I hear you ask.  (Really, I do – check your computer for the hidden mike I’ve had installed while you were on holiday.)  Well, it’s one of those serendipitous stories with several links.  For a start, if people can impersonate someone to take a driving test, they can impersonate someone to take, for instance, an accountancy exam.  So how can you be sure that the newly-qualified member of staff who turns up for work on their first day is the person who actually achieved the qualification certificates clutched in their sweaty little paw (if indeed you have remembered to ask them to bring documentary evidence of their qualifications)?  Or, if you are using a translation service, are you confident that their staff are not in the pay of the criminal whose documents you are checking, and therefore carefully leaving out or editing anything that might give you cause for concern?  In other words, have you done appropriate due diligence on your service providers, as well as on your customers and your staff?  And of course, what is one of the documents that we all rely on for identity verification?  Why, it’s the humble driving licence.  You might not care whether your client is safe on the roads or not, but if they are prepared to lie and cheat to get a driving licence, they are not going to baulk at misleading you.

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