825,000 DHS fingerprint records associated with multiple entries

August 27, 2012 - 

According to internal investigators, 825,000 of the United States’ Homeland Security Department (DHS) fingerprint records appear to be associated with multiple individuals.

DHS has been maintaining fingerprints of every foreigner entering the country in order to prevent fraud, but recent investigations show that there have been a couple of issues surrounding DHS’s records.
The high volume of discrepancies raised eyebrows regarding how many immigrants might be undertaking identity fraud to avoid authorities.

As reported by Mashable, DHS assistant inspector general Frank Deffer disclosed that some of the mismatches found in DHS’s database are associated with individuals that have rap sheets. He also noted that the database is managed by DHS’ US-VISIT program, supplying biometric data technology.

“Although most of the inconsistencies can be attributable to data input issues, US-VISIT is unable to quantify the extent to which the same individuals provided different biographical data to circumvent controls and enter the United States improperly,” Frank Deffer wrote in a report that was released last week. ”Without this information, US-VISIT may be hindered in its ability to share information that could help border enforcement agencies prevent improper entries into the United States.”

Investigators found several hundred thousand instances of fingerprint records corresponding to multiple names and birth dates. DHS’ fingerprint database has hundreds of millions of fingerprint records stored and the irregularities discovered account for 0.2% of the total individuals logged within it.

“Although this is a very small percentage of the total records, the volume of records makes it significant,” Deffer wrote. “In some cases, we found that individuals used different biographic identities at a port of entry after they had applied for a visa under a different name, or been identified as a recidivist alien.”

Deffer also added that many of the situations involved women who had legally altered their names. About 400,000 female records show that they have the same first names, date of birth, and fingerprints but have different last names, likely due to changing their last names after marriage.

He also explained that some of the multiple records are due to accidental typos and various incompatible data formats of immigration agencies. As such, these inconsistencies make it difficult to distinguish between accidental data entry errors and those that are potentially committing identity fraud.

Rand Beers, undersecretary of DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, responded in a written report that the program has started a proactive review of the data in order to spot potential fraud cases and alert proper authorities.

“Subjects suspected of fraud may be or have already attempted to commit passport fraud, U.S. citizen-lawful permanent resident fraud and fraud involving possible alien smuggling,” Rand Beers wrote in the letter.

On the contrary, Frank Deffer stated that this review stops short of examining possible fraud committed by travelers who are from a visa waiver country and don’t not have an alien registration number or those who do not need visas to enter the United States.

US-VISIT is in the process of expanding its database to potentially verify IDs by using iris and facial recognition.

Will it be possible for the Homeland Security Department to clean all its records before 2015? Using their proposed tools, will they be able to prevent fraud issues of those who enter the country?

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About Raze Machan

Raze Machan writes full time for BiometricUpdate.com and graduated with a of Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Central Philippine University. She has been a tech industry writer since 2003. Follow her @Razemachan.