Live chat: Fake identities
May 21, 2012, 6:18 pm David Eccleston Today Tonight
An investigation into the growing international black market dealing in fake identity documents has come as a wake-up call for Pauline Hanson.
Identity theft and credit card fraud costs Australians a staggering $6 billion a year - that's $1.6 million a day.
Hanson has gone undercover to help smash a Southeast Asian identity fraud syndicate, where thousands of Australian identities are being traded to fund organised crime.
Our national security is under attack, with some of the most sophisticated fake documents you'll ever see.
Last year 850,000 Australians came to Thailand. Most come for a holiday, but an increasing number now arrive with criminal intentions.-
In Bangkok you can buy any form of ID, and inside the sininster black market passport trade, for a price, any identity can be stolen.
A backpacker strip forms a tourists’ playground of makeshift stores, selling counterfeit brands and trinkets that flood the footpath, and everything can be made to order.
We may be seven and a half thousand kilometres from home, yet Australia's presence is everywhere. You can easily find any Australian driver’s license; university card; degrees from Sydney University - complete with authentic watermark and gold seal; Medicare cards; press cards; disabled parking permits; and even Qantas staff cards.
Pauline Hanson has travelled to expose what she believes is a failure of the Australian and Thai Governments to protect innocent Australians from having their personal details stolen. Identity crime here is rising ten per cent every year, costing Australians $6 billion annually.
Since her time in public office, Hanson has heard countless stories of identity crime. Now she's taken it to the streets of Bangkok to highlight how serious it is to all of us.
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“It's all very undercover. They know it's illegal, they know what they're doing is wrong. I have no doubt that our Government, our authorities, know it's happening here. So why hasn't something been done about it,” Hanson asked.
To prove how prevalent the fraud is, a new identity has been created for Hanson, flaunting just how farcical the system is by turning Pauline into the most high profile woman in Australia - Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Walking from vendor to vendor buy new identity documents, Hanson buys a fake driver’s license, a Medicare card, a Qantas staff card and an OHS card for between $30 and $50 a card. All of it is done right in front of police, who are too busy posing for photos to pay any attention. The sellers confirm they've got the police on side.
“I’m disgusted with the whole lot - being able to buy these identity cards, and they look so real. The bottom line is that the law abiding Australian citizens would not be buying them - they would not be forking out $50 a card, that’s the bottom line, so here we have people who intend to use them for fraudulent reasons,” Hanson said.
It's what happens next that should put the Australian Federal Police on high alert: a vendor says he can get an authentic Australian passport by the next day.
It turns out that the woman he is working with is in charge of the entire fake ID operation in Bangkok, sending back all the money to bosses in Malaysia.
She tells us she has made six Australian passports in the last month. If we want one, it will take three days to make and cost $3,500. The passport can have any name - anyone's stolen identity or one that’s completely made up.
“What degree are these being used back in Australia? Are they being used to open up bank accounts? Are they being used to go and apply for jobs? Have we got illegals who have now got these identities go and tap into our welfare system, or our hospital system,” Hanson asked.
Detective superintendent Brian Hay has been a member of the Queensland Police Service for 30 years. He's also in charge of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group.
“I think it is naive to think that our identities out there aren't being copied,” Hay said. “Identities form the foundation of everything we do, so the idea that you can use a passport is not the true value of the passport, and I don’t want to get out there and educate the criminal public and how they can use it, but the real value of that passport is probably everything else other than just trying to get through a border.”
We contacted the Australian embassy in Thailand who wouldn't comment on camera. Instead referring us to the Australian Federal Police.
"The Australian Government takes identity security very seriously and is committed to combating identity crime and to protect the identities of Australians from being used for illegal purposes,” an embassy statement said.
“To combat identity crime the AFP has Identity Security Strike Teams (ISST), which are regional multi-agency teams, hosted by the AFP, dedicated to the investigation of identity-related crime, including the compromise of personal information."
For Hanson however, not enough is being done. She wants to see authorities revisit a form of Australia card - where all of your details are able to be accessed or at the very least changes made to current driver’s licenses.
“What I suggest is why don’t we have a barcode on it, so that once it’s scanned, the barcode comes up with all details, and proves what the person is.”
Hay agrees more could be done to our driver’s license to provide consumers with another level of protection.
“Say it’s scanned and rather than pop up with all your details. it may just pop up with a red light or a green light - and a red light says ‘this chip is not known to our systems’,” he proposed.
This reporter is on Twitter at @DavidEccleston7
*What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.*