Technologies to Support Home Affairs Fight Fraud

Introduction

Anytime you would like to apply for credit or purchase an asset you will be required to provide, amongst other documentation, a copy of your identity document (ID) and your marriage certificate (where applicable). Before child support grants will be paid to parents, they are required to provide a birth certificate of the minor concerned (South African Social Security Industry, 2014). When a person dies, a death certificate is required before life insurance will pay any money to the listed beneficiaries. ID, birth, death and marriage certificates are all personal information documentation that provide legal proof of either identification, death or marriage respectively. Proof of identity, for instance, allows credit service providers to verify who to hold responsible for bad debt or verifies that the child in respect of which a grant will be paid, is in fact a real person. A death certificate serves the purpose of ensuring that the insurance company is paying a sum of money to beneficiaries as a result of the legitimate death of their loved one. In all outlined instances, dubious individuals could illegally use the personal information of another in order to obtain some sort of benefit.

Pretending to be someone else or using someone else’s information in order to be afforded some form of benefit amounts to fraud. The unsuspecting victim of a charlatan may only find out when credit institutions or banks contact them looking for money. Additionally, victims may be surprised when their application for finance is declined because they have been blacklisted for unpaid accounts accrued by the identity theif. Individuals are not the only ones who suffer as a result of identity theft. Government and organisations alike loose money too. Criminals use the the personal information of others to obtain social grants illegally. Financial institutions loose money when they are unable to recover the bad debt. The outlined consequences of identity theft provide mere examples of what can result from this criminal activity. Ultimately identity theft is costing the country approximately R1 billion per year (Joseph, 2008).

Methods of Stealing Someone’s Identity

How are these criminals able to steal the personal information of others? Fraudsters may steal personal information by rummaging through your rubbish, by hacking into your computer, from seeing your bank cards or public records, by using spyware or computer techniques such as pharming and phishing (Smith, 2014). These criminals may infiltrate organisations themselves or exploit relationships that they have with insiders (Smith, 2014). Despite these efforts to obtain personal information, some institutions request that the individual verify their information by providing legal proof of the information submitted. Institutions and organisations often request a copy of the appropriate legal personal document. The criminal is unlikely to effectively benefit from identity fraud where verification is required by the institution and they cannot provide a copy of the required LPD of the person they are pretending to be. Where identity theft becomes trickier to avoid is where the criminal is able obtain a duplicate document issued by home affairs.

Duplicate Documentation

In 2012, it was reported that 112 000 South African’s identity documents were duplicated (SAPA, 2012). The origin of these duplicated identity documents are not clear, however, legitimate looking duplicate LPDs can be obtained from corrupt home affairs officials. Perhaps LPDs may be copied by corrupt syndicates but given the recent developments in the news, the credibility of home affairs officials is brought into question. When Samantha Lewthwaite (suspectedly involved in an attack on shoppers at the Westgate mall in Kenya) alledgedly obtained a falsified South African passport, the honesty of home affiars officials was questioned (SAPA, 2013).

Despite this, for credit facilities, organisations and victims alike, when a criminal is able to use a legitimate looking duplicate LPD to verify them as the person they are pretending to be, it becomes very problematic. Institutions have no other method of verifying whether the ID is in fact authentic other than by the look of the legal personal document. Attempts to confirm the legitimacy of a duplicate LPD issued by corrupt home affairs official is pointless.

The department of home affairs have put security measures in place since the incident of the alleged falsified passport being issued. Home affairs officials are now being uniquely identitfied through biometric fingerprint readers before accessing the system (SAPA, 2013). Although there may be a trace of who issued what legal personal document using this system, institutions are still reliant on home affairs to do internal checks on their staff to eradicate duplicate LPDs being issued. Surely organisations and individuals would like the ability to confirm and verify authentic looking LPDs themselves?

Empowering Organisations and Individuals to Authenticate Legal Personal Documents

A solution is available that can empower organisations and individuals to verify for themselves whether LPDs are authentic or duplicate documents. This gives organisations the power to make an informed decision as a result of the verification process. Individuals will be able to authenticate their IDs for instance, before encountering the consequences of identity theft. Once widely accepted and implemented, this solution is likely to reduce cost of identity theft. But how can this be made possible?

Well the first step to doing so is in the unique identifier of the document, the code. It is suggested that a 2D barcode is imprinted on all the LPDs. A 2D barcode is a machine-readable symbol, which encodes information that can be read by barcode scanning applications running on most smart phones. These barcodes are being adopted as the standard for serialized numbering schemes, pointers to content on the Internet, and connection to authentication databases on the network. These codes are also similar to the codes that are being printed on the back of the new ID cards (The Department of Home Affairs, 2014).

The second step to making this solution possible for organisations and individuals, is to use the 2D barcode as the means by which to verify the authenticity of the document. A patented digital authentication technology called PeltaTM is suggested to achieve this. The PeltaTM technology extends the capability of the 2D code by adding a second layer of information which is hidden and invisible to the standard 2D code reader. The first layer of information is visible and includes information that can be read by scanning the code. The second layer of data saved on the 2D barcode is encrytped in a proprietary format, undetectable by scanners and thereby enhancing security measures. Individuals are able to use their smart phones or code reader applications to scan and read the code, but not the encrypted message. Only authorised personnel have access to encrypted code information, which cannot be copied or reproduced if scanned. In addition, the covert information can also be random, machine generated codes for unkown sequencing or serialisation and uncopiable coding. All that is required is for the verifyer to have the application to read the PeltaTM code. Once the code is scanned by the verifyer, the application will indicate whether the LPD is an original or duplicate without revealing the covert code. As a result, individuals and organisations are then empowered to make informed decisions around LPDs and potentially avoid the consequences associated with identity theft.

Process

Now that the end result is better understood, how would this proposed solution be implemented in home affairs? Well in actual fact, very little has to change in their current procedures for printing legal personal documentation. Once the 2D code has been approved for use for all LPDs the overt information needs to be decided upon by the relevant home affairs personnel. All that is required once a decision has been made, is for a communication loop to be put in place between the operating system and the printer where the covert, second layer information is saved to the 2D code before it Is printed. Basically, this solution only requires that an encoding solution is placed in line of the current printing system. This process is illustrated below in figure 1.1. The letter A in figure 1.1 represents the communication loop required to implement the proposed solution. In this communication loop, the second layer information, covert code is saved to the 2D code before it is printed. This communication loop requires no human intervention once the PeltaTM  technology has been installed.

Establishing Accountability

The covert code may authenticate the document but since the management of home affairs wanted to establish accountability through biometric fingerprint systems; a bolt on track and trace software may further enhance the security of LPD. This software can determine the routing and actual path of all documentation. The document can be tracked from the time that the document is printed with the unique code to the time that the citizen is issued with the document; using this proposed track and trace software. In addition to establishing a chain of accountability of home affairs officials, the software is able to record the location and time. This means when the documentation is moved from one official to another, the location and time of transferral is also recorded. This can be done implementing a procedure whereby the LPD is scanned when it is transferred from one official’s responsibility to another.

Establishing accountability, location, time and document route all help to create a comprehensive picture of the life of a LPD. This comprehensive picture provides further security. Dubious home affairs officials creating duplicate LPDs are likely to be caught when management have access to so much information. Management will be able to track the life of a document, and suspicious transferrals can be questioned.

Final thoughts

When information is hidden or inaccessible, it is inimitable. This is what makes the PeltaTM technology so effective. Not only is this technology effective, it is easy to use. The authentication of documentation is made simple based on the fact that anyone with the PeltaTM application downloaded onto their smartphone can confirm whether the LPD is in fact authentic or not. The covert information and the ease of authenticating information is what empowers organisations and individuals to make informed decisions. If this solution is adopted by home affairs, not only will identity theft be on the decrease due to this shift in power towards the consumers of the PeltaTM  technology, but the prevalence of duplicate LPDs is likely to decrease.

Management of home affairs want to erradicate this corruption by trying to establish accountability in their procedures as they implemented a fingerprint biometric system into their current operating procedures. As a further security measure and to enhance their current procedures, the track and trace software was proposed. When each LPD is traceable by means of a unique code and is tied to an individual (fingerprint biometric), time and location, the cornerstones of traceability of LPDs has been established. As a result of this traceability, the security of LPDs is developed further.

References

Joseph, N. (2008, June 4). Identity theft ‘costing SA millions’. Retreived from URL: http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/identity-theft-costing-sa-millions-1.403125#.VHhX-BaM71p

SAPA. (2012, May 11). Tell us about duplicate IDs – home affairs. Retrieved from URL: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Tell-us-about-duplicate-IDs-home-affairs-20120511

SAPA. (2013, October 4). Home affairs clamps down on fake documents. Retrieved from URL: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Home-affairs-clamps-down-on-fake-documents-20131003

Smith, T. (2014). Identity Theft. Retrieved from URL: http://www.bowman.co.za/eZines/Custom/Litigation/MarchNewsletter/IdentityTheft.html

South African Social Security Industry. (n.d.). Child Support Grants. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from URL: http://www.sassa.gov.za/index.php/social-grants/child-support-grant

The Department of Home Affairs (n.d.).Know your new Smart ID Card. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from URL: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/id-smart-card

Traceability Solutions is the authority on marking, identification and traceability solutions for various industries. The company is based in Northriding, Johannesburg and has branches in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.

For more information on this solution and other solutions available for part marking, identification, track and trace contact Traceability Solutions on +27 11 704 4744 or visit our website on www.tracesol.co.za.