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Home Office issues guidance on tech to prevent identity fraud

Advice highlights the benefits of using identity document validation to audit and share data on fraudulent documents

The Home Office has published guidance on using technology and sharing data to establish the authenticity of identity documents.

The guidance says that any organisation needing to verify someone’s identity, such as hospitals wanting to check if someone is eligible for NHS treatment, could benefit from using identity document validation technologies. 

“Identity document validation technologies are powerful tools for identifying fraudulent identity documents and keeping an audit trail of the checks made for both parties involved, especially where the systems are able to share data on them and to make checks against other databases on the data contained within the document,” the guidance said.

“By sharing data on these documents, you can help to reduce the risk of those documents being used elsewhere. Making checks against other data sources can also help you to verify the identity of the identity document holder.” 

Using technology where documents are scanned onto the system and then automatically checked using algorithms and facial recognition software can be useful in cracking down on fraud, said the Home Office.  

But the guidance warned that tech will not always catch more “sophisticated forgeries”, adding: “Many service providers militate against this by including remote teams of document and facial recognition experts. More basic services are unlikely to identify imposters (lookalikes), who make up a considerable portion of individuals involved in document abuse.”

The Home Office also called on public authorities to ensure they have a data sharing agreement or memorandum of understanding in place to ensure they can share information on fraudulent documents with other public services.

“A public body may only share data if it has power to do so,” the guidance said. “Before considering a proposal to share data, it is necessary to consider whether the parties to a proposed arrangement have the necessary legal powers.”

In the Digital Economy Bill, the government has set out plans to transform how data is shared across public sector bodies, and one of its key commitments is focused on the sharing of publicly held datasets “to improve service delivery while maintaining safeguards on privacy”.  

However, a House of Lords committee has previously said it was “inappropriate” that one of the bill’s clauses on data sharing gave ministers “almost untrammeled powers” allowing them to “prescribe extensive lists of public authorities as ‘specified persons’, either by name or description”.

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