Forging passports, travel documents: why is it possible?

I’m not sure what the situation is in the States, but Canadian passports are fairly notorious for being easy to forge. I don’t understand why this is possible.

Is there any good reason why all the documentation used to get a passport could not be put on-line (for border-post and consular use) so that if someone presents Visa #XYZ, the checking authority doesn’t have to feel the paper and run it under UV light, they could just check directly with the issuing country that it is, in fact, legitimate and the names/pictures haven’t been changed?

Given that travel documents are valid for only a few months and Canadian passports are valid for only five years, it would seem that you could have a complete database of all valid documents built up in fairly short order. But I’ve never seen an explanation of just why special stamps, papers and inks are considered the be-all and end-all of international security.

Why, do you think it is harder to forge something electronically than physically? If a system like that is put on line, it runs into a whole host of problems that things such as credit card databases are facing. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Or is it more cost effective just to make the documents harder to forge?

It’s certainly harder to do both - and it would require not mere electronic forgery, but a hack/spoof of the database. I understand that forging travel documents is big business in Lahore - it would be much harder to engage in the wholesale hacking of a government database which was verified by separate communications with the issuing consulates and embassies.

Problems like what? Credit card authorization systems are fairly simple: basically, approved or disapproved (and, I guess, “call police”). A passport/visa authentication system would be more elaborate, have fewer users, and stricter control systems on those users.

That’s my question.

Securing the databse is a huge issue. Think about this. Physically, it takes a lot of time to alter a passport. It has to be done by hand, one by one. Cracking into an online database can be done by networks of computers. Once you are in, you get to steal/alter records in tens of thousands if not millions.

Changing a database is easy. If I wasn’t so busy cruising on my yacht, I’d tell you how to do it.

My US passport is scanned. Countries without working phone systems will not have working databases.

Microsoft claims it is not a monopoly. What database format does the database use?

Canadian passports are not easy to forge. They have the same safeguards in them as countries such as the USA or Great Britain.
They simply are the target of forgery attempts more than any others. The most recent example I believe was the group of Mossad assassins caught in Jordan with altered Canadian passports. Note these were altered, not forged.

The reasons are numerous, for one, Canadians are allowed into a great number of countries without entry/exit VISAs, they can obtain limited stay tourist visas upon arrival at the country in question’s airport. Canadians also have a better global image, so theoretically, are less scruntinized at borders or given better treatment than say a traveller with an America passport.

I know from my extensive travelling in South-East Asia I’ve never had a problem at a border. Just have your arrival card filled out, your passport ready, they punch some numbers into a computer then wave you through.

I’m not seeing what you’re saying, here. Say that Joe Canuck is a legitimate Canadian businessman, who travels abroad a lot. He also happens to look sort of like me. So, I forge up a copy of his passport. Border guards stop me and check my passport. They look up “Joe Canuck”, and find that he’s a legitimate businessman, who does indeed have a passport, so they wave me through.

Something isn’t right, here.

The extra layer of security I’m wondering about would not add much additional protection in this particular case. But in order to forge a passport under the name Chronos, you have to find the individual with valid documents who meets your descripition and get his passport number - considerably harder than just forging a good looking document.

It is also my understanding that the worst abuse comes from the forging of visas rather than passports - so I don’t understand why, when issuing visa #X to a citizen of country Y with their serial number Z, all this information isn’t electronically accessible from the moment of issue - so to forge a visa that would actually work, you’ve also got to hack the database.

I am not suggesting such a system would provide perfect protection, nor am I making any claims about the susceptibility of Canada’s system to fraud compared to anyone else’s. I am merely asking why it is possible for people to travel from, say, Pakistan to Canada on fake visas printed by a back-street printer in Lahore - which one reads about occasionally.

e.g. Secessionist war and terrorism in Sri Lanka: Transitional impulses

and
Sale of U.S. visas still hot business in Honduras

How is it possible that simple possession of the proper physical stamps is sufficient to produce a workable visa?

Why forge a passport when it’s so easy to get a false one?

The main reason why we need physical visa stamps is simply that it’s just so much easier and doesn’t require electronics. You try crossing a remote border in Asia or Africa, where the border post may just be a guy in a hut with a flashlight, and you’ll see why it’s not reasonable to expect them to be able to hook up to an international database. Far easier for the officials just to check the stamp in a passport and wave you through.

Some countries do have this system though - I recently applied online for an “Electonic Travel Authority” for Australia - you don’t get a visa label in your passport, but the immigration officers can check the details on the computer when you arrive.

Until the whole world is online, though, you’ll have to use the old-fashioned method. And I have to say that I prefer it - those blurry stamps in a slightly tattered passport hold far more memories than an electronic smart card ever could, secure or not.

I quite agree that a “dual authentication” system would not be possible for all countries - but for Western countries, authenticating visas issued by their own consulates at their own border control points, this objection would not apply.

I know the US has a highly automated system - last time I went to the US (pre- 9/11) boarding a plane in Toronto with my UK passport and without my scrap of paper showing landed immigrant status in Canada, I was given a stern warning to bring my bit of paper next time; and was told that I was now in the database as having been warned.

So I’m afraid it’s still unclear to me just why it is possible to forge a visa ostensibly issued by a Western country.