Fake Identification can be used for a number of things: Buying alcohol as a Minor, smuggling people, money laundering. But what about cheating the Welfare State? In parts of Germany, this is a growing problem, costing the taxpayer Millions of Euro.

emplyoment agency hamm

Getting defrauded: Emplyoment Agency Hamm

According to a recent letter from the German Association of Cities and Towns (Deutscher Städtetag), cities have “increasing problems” in recognizing forged identity documents. This is due in particular to the increased number of refugees and the increased immigration from Southeast European countries.

The new police statistics of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) show, that offenses in connection with false identity documents have risen by around 24 percent. The German Association of Cities and Towns speaks of “immense damage to the public sector“.

This does not come as a surprise, since it is cheap & easy to buy a fake German passport on the deepweb!

But why buy one?

False passports are often used to commit social benefit fraud – a crime for which the police statistics for 2016 showed an increase in the number of cases. The extent of the problem was most recently shown by the 2017 annual report of the Federal Employment Agency on the “Combating Abuse of Benefits” in the Social Code Book II, which regulates the basic provision for job seekers. The balance sheet refers to 148,524 criminal and fine proceedings for the misuse of benefits. Nevertheless, a slight decrease in relation to the previous year (149,653).

Authorities too badly equipped

The number of unreported cases of social benefit fraud and forgery of documents is significantly higher according to assessment of the Association of Cities and Towns. According to official figures from the 2017 police statistics, the extent of benefit fraud in NRW has also declined slightly. However, the growing problem with false passports is now prompting more and more cities to take a closer look at ID cards. Many authorities are currently not technically well-equipped to detect identity fraud.

According to the letter from the Association of Cities and Towns, the forgeries are “usually not recognizable by a simple inspection“.

How are Identification Documents checked?

picture of ingo nürnbergerAs a rule, documents are checked exclusively by manual inspection!” says Ingo Nürnberger, head of the Bielefeld social services department.

Hamm does things differently. The city has been using new testing equipment for a year now. Since then, documents have been routinely checked by means of the devices during visits to the authorities. In 35 cases, a charge was filed against a forged or falsified document.

Municipalities do not know the extent of the problem

Although a manageable number, the introduction has paid off for Hamm: for every forged document, the average amount of damage is assumed to be 55,000 euros.

With 35 cases prevented, a financial loss of 1.75 million euros was thus prevented. In municipalities, the magnitude of the problem is often not known at all. Representatives from Bielefeld, Herford and Bünde were unable to answer questions about the extent of the financial damage caused by forged documents and social fraud.

But how exactly do ID fraudsters cheat the German government out of welfare money? What role does organized crime play in all this. Stay tuned for the next part in this series, where we will take a closer look how European gangs take advantage of the social system in Germany, using fake IDs!