EXPOSED: The gang peddling forged UK passports online for £3,500 (2022)

Crooks are selling sophisticated fake British passports online for £3,500, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The racket boasts a ‘super price and super-fast’ service.

Gangs use pictures of the Queen and Buckingham Palace on social media to advertise passports which include ‘high quality’ bio- metric chips needed to pass UK border controls. Forgeries feature watermarks, holograms and fluorescent security features visible only under ultraviolet lights during checks at airport scanners.

The UK-based agent for one gang offered a Mail undercover reporter a counterfeit British passport for £3,500 and an EU passport – which could also be used for illegal entry here – for £2,000. He said: ‘A lot of people came this way. Whatever you like. You like French? You like British? You like Italian? Everything.’

One passport forger advertises through videos on TikTok – some with more than 17,000 views – showing a cartoon Queen winking. A message in Albanian says: ‘Anyone interested in European passports suitable for crossing to England get in contact.’

The Mail reporter – posing assomeone hoping to get relatives into the UK – contacted the gang boss ‘Nic’ who laughed and gave a thumbs-up during a video call from his home in Albania.

(Video) Criminals sell fake UK passports on TikTok for £3,500 | Daily Mail undercover reporter

Forgery boss: Albania-based ‘Nic' laughed and gave a thumbs-up during a video call from his home in Albania

An advert for the fake passports shows a cartoon Queen winking. A message in Albanian says: ‘Anyone interested in European passports suitable for crossing to England get in contact’

He put our reporter in touch with his cousin, who said he now lives in Birmingham after arriving on a fake passport. He said: ‘I had the same passport and now I’m in the UK.’ He added that his cousin in Albania was a ‘serious’ operator and had made fake passports which contained biometric chips to ensure they would pass security scanners. He explained: ‘In the mini-chip you have all the information – your name, nationality, date of birth, how tall you are, surname.’

He sent videos of his cousin making the passports.

Another forger advertises ‘the newest passports on the market with all security elements’ via a group on messaging service Telegram. Posts include a video of a woman’s fake UK passport being made and scanned via a computer, with a caption: ‘English passport with super high quality chips and data that shows up in the system.’

The gang told the undercover reporter that UK passports are at a premium and sell for £3,500, plus delivery charges. The crooks are selling European passports for £2,000 – and said fake Slovenian versions are popular.

Criminals are going to extraordinary lengths to create realistic looking copies of UK passports (Pictured: A genuine UK passport)

In one video, a gang member posted a picture of a fake Slovenian passport and a boarding pass in the same name for a Ryanair flight from Spain to Stansted on December 31, with the comment: ‘New Year’s offer.’ The gang’s ‘customer’ said his passport had been carefully checked at the airport, including with a computer scan, but it ‘turned out OK’.

Other posts show clients’ boarding passes and fake documents used to fly into Leeds and Manchester.

The main operation is based in Albania, where the passports are made, but the group sell to clients from around the world.

When the Mail contacted the crooks posing as a potential customer based in the UK hoping to get a relative here from Spain, we were directed to their British-based agent. The man, who gave his name as ‘Jimmy’, told the reporter in a call via WhatsApp he first entered the UK ten years ago using a fake passport and now lives in Luton.

He gave a step-by-step guide on how to use a false document.

Security: False passports are said to include crucial ID details which show up under UK scans

The gang also advertises fake UK driving licences and British visas. It said it could produce birth, marriage and Covid certificates.

Another group, entitled pasport.idcard.albania with more than 3,000 followers, posts videos showing a plane to England and footage of a fake passport stating: ‘Passage to England with international passports, super price, super fast. Contact.’ And an Instagram page features pictures with a message in the biography saying: ‘We offer top quality passports, ID cards or EU driving licences for going to the UK or to use in the EU.’

It offers packages including an ID card and driving licence for £800 and a passport, ID card and driving licence for as low as £2,000. It adds: ‘Documents are high quality... produced in Ireland.’

The fake passports can avoid detection when swiped at immigration because it is believed they are not automatically checked against a database of genuine passports.

FRAUDLENT BANK ACCOUNTS ON SALE FOR £950

A gang charges up to £950 to set up fraudulent UK bank accounts for illegal migrants. It advertises in videos posted on an Albanian language TikTok page called ‘bank card UK’. Some have been viewed more than 50,000 times.

Promising ‘bank cards for all Albanians in the UK without documentation’, the site also offers fake ID, utility bills, bank statements, payslips and landlord references. Illegal immigrants are banned from opening a bank account in this country.

An undercover journalists posing as a customer who messaged the TikTok account was sent a UK mobile phone number to call. The man he subsequently spoke to said, for those without identification, he could arrange accounts with several banks, including Santander for £950. He also offers a Barclays account for £350, though for this the customer has to supply a passport.

A TikTok spokesman said ‘This content has no place on TikTok.’

A spokesman for UK Finance, the banking trade association, said: ‘Banks follow strict regulations when opening any new accounts and carry out detailed identification and verification checks.

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Dr Ben Greening, of Migration Watch UK, said of our revelations: ‘This is shocking confirmation of the sophistication with which criminals are now plying their forgery trade. The idea that someone can buy a counterfeit British passportfor £3,500 points to the gaping and widening holes in UK border security. Unless the Government gets serious about delivering tougher law enforcement and about controlling the border, this threat has the potential to grow, with a worsening safety risk for UK families.’

The National Crime Agency has warned that fake identity documents that allow hardened crooks to slip into the country undetected are a ‘key enabler’ of crime in Britain. Recent figures revealed that almost 2,000 fraudulent identity documents used to try to enter the UK are discovered by Border Force every year.

TikTok removed and permanently banned the sites after being alerted by the Mail. A spokesman said: ‘Criminal activity has no place on TikTok. Our community guidelines prohibit any content that depicts, promotes or enables illegal activities. Any content found to be in violation of these policies will be removed immediately and action will be taken against... accounts.’

A Passport Office spokesman said: ‘The production of fake passports is a crime and those who attempt to cheat the system will face the full consequences of the law. We are aware criminals use social media to sell fraudulent items and we expect companies to crack down and remove them.’

Our investigation comes after the issue of immigration gripped the Tory leadership contest at the weekend. It also emerged last week that shocking blunders had allowed hundreds of Channel migrants to vanish without trace, prompting security fears. Serious failures in the way arrivals were processed at Dover meant that in many cases their identities had not been properly logged.

FAQs

Is it possible to forge passport? ›

Passports are made up from sheets of paper which are then stitched together and cut to size. The pages and cover should therefore all be in perfect alignment. To forge a document it may first be taken apart and then re-assembled by hand, making it difficult for all the pages to sit flush as before.

How many fake passports are there in the UK? ›

Figures compiled from think-tank Migration Watch UK have revealed that more than 2,000 people a year use fake documents when attempting to enter the UK. UK Border Force staff report that they find fake documents daily, with 21,256 false passports being discovered by Border Force in the decade leading up to 2020.

How much is a forged passport? ›

Most fraudulent passports cost above $1,000. Real, physical passports are both rare and expensive. Most are at least $12,000; the average cost is $13,567.

How do you spot a fake passport? ›

Manually
  1. Check that the date is valid.
  2. Check that the personal details have not been tampered with.
  3. The number of page numbers should be correct for the date the passport was issued.
  4. The photograph should be printed digitally.
  5. There should be correct holograms and perforations.
  6. There should be a passport chip.
18 Aug 2022

How long will you be in jail for a fake passport? ›

If a person lied on a passport application form, they can be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced up to 10 years in prison. If the crime includes human trafficking, narcotics, or both, the sentencing can be raised up to 15 years in prison. If terrorism is involved, the penalty can be raised to 20 years in prison.

What is the penalty for a fake passport in UK? ›

The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.

What happens if I use a fake passport? ›

The penalties for passport fraud range from 5 to 25 years in federal prison, depending on the facts of the case. In addition, if a person uses another person's identity in the fraud, a charge of aggravated identity theft is possible.

Why do people buy fake passports? ›

Fantasy passports, such as the World Passport, are passport-like documents issued by non-official organizations or micronations as a novelty or souvenir, to make a political statement, or to show loyalty to a political or other cause.

Can passports be skimmed? ›

Data can be “Skimmed” from the chip inside your smart passport. Smart passports have RFID (radio frequency identification) chips that transmit personal data through radio waves. Thieves use small devices called “skimmers” to intercept data.

Is there a way to verify if a passport is real? ›

Most MVAs accept U.S. passports as identity documents. To verify that a U.S. passport is not fraudulent, the jurisdiction can check via USPVS that the passport number and date of birth on the passport matches the passport's electronic record, as recorded in U.S. government files.

What happens if you get caught with a fake passport at the airport? ›

Penalties for Passport Fraud. There are both criminal and immigration penalties for Passport Fraud. The penalties for Passport Fraud range from 5-25 years depending on the facts of your case. In addition, if another person's identity was used in the fraud, a charge of Aggravated Identity Theft is possible.

What can criminals do with your passport? ›

Thieves who get hold of this information have everything they need to commit identity theft. They can use it to open new credit accounts under your name, take out loans, drain your bank accounts, steal your tax refund or use your health insurance.

Do convictions show on passport? ›

There is no link to your criminal record from your passport. The chip on a biometric passport only stores a digitised image of your photograph and biographical details which are printed in your passport. You will be required to apply for a visa when travelling to certain countries (for example the USA and Australia).

Can you commit identity theft with a passport? ›

Remember, passport fraud is only one type of identity theft. There are several others. One method used to commit passport fraud is the altering of support documents such as birth certificates in order to apply for the travel document. Another method is to assume the identity of a deceased person.

What can I do if someone forged my signature UK? ›

Firstly and foremostly, we advise you to go to the police. Always remember – fraud is a crime. If you suspect a forgery, contact the police and make a report as soon as possible.

Is forgery a criminal or civil case? ›

Falsification of documents, forgery, and fraud are categorized as white colour crime offences. To establish successful prosecution and civil claim, the prosecutor and claimant must prove the intention and conduct of the accused person and the presumption of intention that fall under respective statutory provision.

What happens if you get caught with a fake ID UK? ›

It is a criminal offence to use false or borrowed ID to gain entry to licensed premises or to buy alcohol. The penalties for doing so can lead to a maximum punishment of £5,000 and 10 years imprisonment.

Can someone do anything with my passport number? ›

There isn't anything that can really be done with just a passport number-you need to have the actual document to do any damage. If your passport is lost or stolen, here's how to go about getting a new one: Report your passport lost or stolen by calling 1-877-487-2778.

Can passports be scanned by thieves? ›

When embedded in a U.S. passport, the chip can be scanned only by someone at close range with an RFID reader, usually within a couple feet. While there's valid concern about having your microchipped passport “skimmed” by a tech thief, actually having it happen is unlikely, some security officials say.

What do agents see when they scan your passport? ›

They confirm the legitimacy of the document. It pulls up your record in their internal/system databases. It pulls up your immigration history. It pulls up your information from other related government organizations (for example, the State department - which issues the visas)

Do passports have GPS chips? ›

Since August 2007, all U.S. passports have come embedded with an RFID chip, intended to deter fraud and improve security. The chip contains the same information as on the passport's picture page, including a digital version of your passport photograph. (You can still use a pre-2007 passport that doesn't contain a chip.

How do police verify passports? ›

A police officer checks the application form's details, including the applicant's name, age, and address. The officer pays a personal visit to the applicant's residence. The police station gets in touch with the passport agency and asks them to issue the applicant's passport if the information is true.

How can I verify my UK passport? ›

You'll get an email from HM Passport Office if someone applying for a passport has asked you to confirm their identity. You need to follow a different process if you've been asked to sign printed photos (called 'countersigning'). You can only confirm someone's identity if you: are 18 or over.

Who is allowed to verify a passport? ›

They must have known the person applying (or the adult who signed the form if the passport is for a child under 16) for at least 2 years. They must be able to identify the person applying such as being a friend, neighbour or colleague (not just someone who knows them professionally)

Are passports hard to forge? ›

Given that holograms on passports are most often layered with specialty inks and fine line engravings, according to Gizmodo, they are incredibly hard to copy.

Can passports be cloned? ›

New microchipped passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft can be cloned and manipulated in minutes and accepted as genuine by the computer software recommended for use at international airports.

Is it possible to fake a biometric passport? ›

According to document sellers, it is impossible to fake a working biometric chip, but at many border crossings officials checking passports simply ignore those that don't work, waving the passport holder through.

What happens if you fake a passport? ›

The consequences include: harsh fines, long prison sentences, deportation, and life-time bans from ever entering the United States. It is very important to hire a law firm with experience in both criminal and immigration law.

Can someone steal your passport and use it? ›

More dangerously however, the passport can be used to travel under a fake, "clean" identity. Needless to say, this is a vital tool for criminal gangs such as human traffickers and drug smugglers.

How much is a passport on the dark web? ›

Dark web prices

“Most of us have a snap of our ID or passport on our phone or cloud storage. Once leaked, it could be used to make a forged document that costs up to $1,500 if you are a citizen of the US, Canada, or Europe. Social Security numbers sell for $70 USD.

What do thieves do with stolen passports? ›

"They can sell it for money to finance their operations," said Asa Hutchinson, the Department of Homeland Security undersecretary responsible for border security. "And secondly, they can use stolen passports to get their operatives into another country or at least attempt to do so."

What can hackers do with your passport? ›

Hackers steal passport and ID card data to use it for illegal activities, such as crossing borders and taking bank loans in another person's name. Cybercriminals only need to get the victim's full name, birthday, nationality, and passport number to falsify their documents.

Can someone do anything with your passport number? ›

There isn't anything that can really be done with just a passport number-you need to have the actual document to do any damage. If your passport is lost or stolen, here's how to go about getting a new one: Report your passport lost or stolen by calling 1-877-487-2778.

How do I report a fake UK passport? ›

Passport Application Fraud: 0300 222 0000, open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Weekends and public holidays, 9am to 5:30pm.

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