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Identity fraud costs Australian government billions


Fraud costs the Australian government about $4 billion a year, according to the country’s Attorney General. In Victoria, a region that does not use facial recognition technology, fraud costs an estimated $200 million a year.

These figures were presented in November 2011 by Victoria state government’s economic review committee, as part of its argument to introduce facial recognition technology for Victoria’s 3.8 million driver’s license holders.  Fake driver’s licenses are a key element of financial fraud.  During the presentation, a case was presented about an Albanian citizen, entering Australia using a Greek passport only to be identified through facial recognition when he applied for driver’s license in Victoria.  The Albanian national turned out to be an operative for an international drug cartel.

The benefits of using facial recognition technology are not just for law enforcement.  The case of the Albanian citizen highlighted the failures in border control.  Identity fraud poses a serious threat to national security.

Each year, thousands of skilled workers, foreign students and tourists enter Australia.  The laxity in border control enabled the entry of criminals posing as students or asylum seekers.  Hundreds of bogus students remain in the country undetected while they engage in financial fraud or drug dealing.  They get lost in the community and then take on another identity.

”It’s normal for people to seek asylum once they arrive in the country, but in some cases this is not happening,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade source said. But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen noted: ”Our biometric program has revealed numerous cases of identity fraud using facial recognition and fingerprint biometrics.”

In December following the committee hearing, the Victoria state government announced a comprehensive system of facial recognition technology to be implemented by 2014.  However, Victoria’s Transport Department is yet to detail the procurement process.

Aside from upgrading facial recognition technology, the situation also highlighted the need for better communications between government agencies including immigration and state police.

However, sharing of data is restricted by legislative impediments.

As a Foreign Affairs source said: “The ability to share and access information can be constrained by legislation, privacy laws and other factors. We are unable to discuss details of our active bilateral relationships with regional countries, but regularly engage with partner countries on co-operative arrangements.”

Immigration also offered little encouragement, as the Transport Department will only consider requests for information as long as it is in accordance with existing legislation.

Do you think facial recognition technology should be given priority by the Australian government to curtail identity fraud?

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