GAO: Inspectors unable to detect counterfeit documents

| 1/31/2003

Can U.S. government officials conducting inspections at ports of entry in Canada, Mexico and Jamaica detect counterfeit identification documents?

No, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office in a report released Jan. 30.

GAO investigators created fictitious driver's licenses and birth certificates using off-the-shelf computer graphics software. They also carried fake credit cards with fictitious names. Agents entering the ports used those counterfeit documents to gain entry into the United States.

"INS and U.S. Customs Service officials never questioned the authenticity of the counterfeit documents and our agents encountered no difficulty entering the country using them," said Robert Cramer, managing director of GAO's Office of Special Investigations.

"On two occasions, INS officials did not ask for or inspect any identification documents when our agents entered the United States," Cramer said. "On another occasion, an agent was able to walk across a major border checkpoint and was not stopped or inspected by any government official."

GAO said it's currently evaluating ways to improve the system. It would most likely push for better training of inspectors and improved technical approaches to detect counterfeit documents.