Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some Notes on Document and Information Integrity

I would like to highlight that there is a subtle, though meaningful, distinction between bogus documents and bogus information.  Bogus documents show bogus information.  Bogus information is not necessarily conveyed only through bogus documents.  The integrity of a document can be compromised in three ways, as follows:

1). Type A: Commercially Produced Documents – Bogus documents that are produced by commercial interests (acting independently or in collusion with the legitimate document-producing authority [such as through the provision of authentic paper material on which to print the bogus documents, or through profit kickbacks that ensure their continued operation]).

2). Type B: Tampered Authentic Documents – Bogus documents that are issued by the legitimate document-producing authority but with subsequent superficial document tampering done by an unscrupulous member of that legitimate document-producing authority (either acting individually or upon instruction by other unscrupulous members of the legitimate document-producing authority) or by an independent third-party individual or organization;

3). Type C: Authentic Documents with Bogus Information – Authentic documents issued by the legitimate document-producing authority that require no further tampering as the information it displays already reflects the information desired by the migrant.  The authentic information is replaced with bogus information by editing the electronic database from where the information on the authentic document is pulled.

These three types vary in terms of their cost, ease of acquisition and ease of verification.  Rarely are migrants involved in choosing which type is to be used in producing the documentation requirements that they need as these nitty-gritty details are handled by third-party individuals or commercial interests that help them beat migration control(for a commensurate fee).

Type A documents are the cheapest in cost, easiest to access, and fastest to produce.  In Recto Street, found in the Quiapo area which is in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, education credentials (a diploma, transcript of records, certificate of graduation) can be purchased for only US$10-US$30, taking a maximum of only 1 hour to produce.  See some pictures of the thriving, bogus document industry in Recto, Manila, Philippines.

Picture 1:  Smallest Signboard  

Picture 2:  Signboards every 10 steps

Picture 3:  Signboards on Both Sides of the Street

Type B documents are harder to obtain as they require having an insider contact or having a contracted third-party agent who will do the needed tampering of information.  Verification of the authenticity of Type A and Type B documents is the easiest to do, taking only a cursory check of the information presented with the legitimate document-producing authority.

Below is a sample of a Type B document forgery.
Specimen 1:  Pia's Philippine Passport with a Japanese Surname
Specimen 2: Pia's Japan Visa as a Japanese Descendant
Type C documents are the hardest to obtain and the most expensive in cost.  Hassan narrated how he had to personally ask for the help of a friend, a mid-level government officer, who then had to mobilize his own network of contacts, in order to get to right person who could make the needed direct editing of his personal information in the official government electronic database.  From being a married man with three children in the Bangladesh, the Type C document, costing Hassan roughly US$700, showed his civil status as single, allowing him to marry a divorced, Indonesian permanent resident, thus securing his legal status in Japan.  Type C documents are virtually impossible to detect as the legitimate, document-producing authority will keep churning out the bogus information on a fully authentic document.  The drawback though of a Type C document is that the change is permanent, unlike the external or superficial tampering done to produce Type A and Type B documents.  If, for example, Hassan will need his civil status in Bangladesh to return to being married – such as if he wishes to claim half of his wife’s inheritance or current assets...

[continuing article...]

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