US Passports still vulnerable to fraud

Monday - 8/2/2010, 10:31am EDT

Greg Kutz, managing director for forensic audits, GAO

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Posing as someone else and using fake birth certificates and driver's licenses to get a U.S. passport can still work. But not as often as it used to. For the second time in two years, the Government Accountability Office has exposed holes in the country's security by deliberately using fraudulent material to obtain passports.

While the GAO noted improvements, managing director for forensic audits, Greg Kutz, told Federal News Radio even the State Department wasn't pleased with the progress being made.

"I don't think they were pleased," said Kutz. "I think they would love to be 100 percent accurate and 100 percent have fraud prevention. No system's ever going to be 100 percent to prevent fraud, so they're headed in the right direction but there are serious things that still need to be addressed."

According to State, said Kutz, they're going to need some help being able to compare information they have with the state's. "They're looking for additional legislative authority to get access to certain databases."

Kutz told the Federal Drive that would help, but there are other improvements that could be made in the meantime.

So it's a combination of human capital, in other words training your people; improving your processes, for example real-time matches with Social Security; and increased use of technology, they're using facial recognition technology for example now as something they're trying to roll out nationwide as an anti-fraud measure. So it's combination of the people, processes and use of technology.

Kutz noted the training will need to go beyond State's workforce. "It's just a matter of additional training and you know a lot of the people that are involved in the front-end are at postal offices. Most passport applications are done at the Postal Service, so it's a matter of working closely with" the USPS.

"Plus, if you know the fraud people out there, they're going to be looking at new ways to defeat the system so you always have to be nimble in what you do to prevent fraud."