Losing your passport could lead to crimes of a very serious nature if attempts to recover and to report identity theft are delayed. This is because the passport is a proof of identity as well as residential address. It contains all the essential information that scammers need for conducting identity fraud such as name of spouse, place of birth, address and date of birth. It is possible to try various combinations of passwords based on the information in a passport and gain access to bank accounts. Statistics show a disturbing trend of passport crimes and resultant identity fraud:
- A scammer with a stolen passport can misrepresent the victim and apply for fresh passport using the fake identity
- The stolen passport can be used for cloning or fabrication of fake passports
- It becomes easy for terrorists and other anti-social elements to travel using stolen passports
- Sale of counterfeit passports to illegitimate networks promotes organized crime unless strong efforts are taken to report identity theft
- Obtaining illegal citizenship, smuggling drugs and counterfeit goods are all possible sinister designs originating from passport theft.
Any delay on the part of the victim to report identity theft, immediately after the passport is stolen will entail huge financial and non-financial costs. Using stolen passports for nefarious purposes has become so commonplace that both Government as well as Non Government agencies are enacting various stringent laws to tackle passport fraud. Once a passport is lost, the following must be the point of action for the person concerned:
- Report identity theft to the Government immediately
- Proceed to cancel the passport. This is where most people err, by allowing time to recollect, follow-up and find the passport themselves. Using the time factor, scammers are quick to use the stolen passport
- File complaint with the local police on loss of passport
- Provide all possible information regarding the lost passport in order to report identity theft without any delay for want of information
- Contact credit referencing companies and get a fraud alert attached to personal credit reports
- Inform all friends and relatives, both inland and abroad
- It is advisable to report identity theft even if the passport is found after a period of time, since it is not possible to rule out identity fraud that may have happened.
- The Embassy of all countries lay down in explicit details, the procedures to report lost passport and to apply a new one.
- The procedure to report identify theft in case of passport lost by minors and children must be done with parents seeking an immediate appointment with the embassy.
A number of private agencies provide effective protection against lost passports. In case, passport is lost in a foreign land while travelling, the situation becomes even more complicated. Many travel agencies extend ID protection shields and take immediate action if any of its passengers are subjected to identity frauds, by arranging immediate help and coordination with embassies. It is advisable for tourists to carry their passports safely. In case they leave it behind in hotels, they need to use lockers provided to safe-keep their travel related documents.