Not all IDs are created equal: how geography impacts identity fraud

October 24, 2019

Part 2 of Onfido’s deep dive into identity fraud. For everything else you might want to know about the subject, download our full report.

It’s unsurprising that in today’s online environment, identity fraud has a global impact. We live in a world with hundreds of countries and thousands of different identity documents. There’s plenty of opportunity for fraudsters.

What may be more surprising is that certain documents from certain countries are more likely to be fraudulent than others. Using our data* we’ve been able to pinpoint the top 20 most frequently fraudulent documents, worldwide.

So, why is this information useful for you and your business?

Knowledge is power—using fraud trends to your advantage

Perhaps your business is planning an expansion. Maybe you’re moving into new geographies, setting up offices abroad, and vetting clients from new regions. And even if you’re based solely in one region, you might be dealing with an international client base. 

Whatever the scenario, you’ll encounter a range of identity documents. You could be performing ID verification in unfamiliar territory. Being aware of which documents are more likely to be fraudulent is going to be extremely useful.

This knowledge can dictate if and when to include more rigorous document verification processes. If high-risk or unknown documents are submitted, it could trigger a more thorough vetting process. This will help streamline your ID verification process, make it more thorough, and ultimately, catch cases of identity fraud more effectively. 

Why are some IDs more of a target for fraudsters?

By far, we see the highest fraud rates on Russian driving licenses. 18% of all Russian driving licenses analysed by us were suspected fraudulent. Vietnamese national ID cards came in second (12% suspected fraudulent) followed by Ukranian driving licenses (7.6% suspected fraudulent). But why are fraud rates higher on these documents than others?

There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, it’s linked to how familiar a fraudster is with the ID. We’re all very familiar with our own passports and driving licenses, and fraudsters are no different. A high fraud rate in national documents could mean a high number of domestic fraudsters.

Plus, some documents have few safeguards or security features. This is particularly true for older versions. Others have complex mathematical rules about personal information and document number formats. 

The level of safeguards can affect the specific type of fraud a document may face. For example, the Aadhaar card (the Indian national ID card) has very little in the way of security features. We found that 92% of the time this document flagged as fraudulent, it was due to a visual authenticity fail. In other words, visual security features had been compromised, such as the font or photo. 

In comparison, a Californian driving license only flagged visual authenticity fails 11% of the time. The remaining failures were down to data validation or data consistency errors. So, a document’s security features can affect the way a fraudster tampers with it.

Document verification: no one approach fits all

Whatever the reason, it proves that there is no ‘one approach fits all’ when identifying fraudulent documents. Your business could be very successful performing identity checks in a certain geography, or for one type of document. 

But what’s worked for you in one instance, may not work in another. And if your business is dealing with new territories of identity document verification, it could be time to reassess your fraud and risk strategy. 

This blog is intended to give you an insight into our analysis. For more cutting-edge insights into the changing landscape of fraud, download our Global Fraud Index.

Or check out our webinar on the 5 identity fraud predictions for 2020. Our document specialist team look at what security threats and attack vectors will be making waves next year and how you can protect yourself and your business. 


*The data for the study was collected during H1 2019 and normalized by client and industry distribution.

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