RGD sets up unit to curb identity theft
THE Registrar General's Department (RGD) has stepped up its efforts to clamp down on an underground fraud network that the agency says is involved in widespread identity theft.
The agency has established an Authentication, Verification and Identity Department (AVID), which conducts record updating and verifies supporting documents and vital records.
According to the RGD, unscrupulous individuals are stealing the identities of both the living and the dead "to secure some form of benefit or resource". But the agency points out that there are cases where persons willingly "sell" their identities, a fraud which is more common among siblings to aid and abet a brother or sister to fraudulently obtain United States and United Kingdom visas.
"For the financial year 2011, the agency confiscated over 150 copies of birth certificates. These customers were subsequently guided to completing the late registration process," Hazel Cunningham, the RGD's acting marketing and planning manager, told the Jamaica Observer.
She said the fraud is normally uncovered when visa applications are made using the falsified documents at local embassies.
"...The embassies check the authenticity of these documents as a rule of thumb," Cunningham declared.
She said in order to create greater public awareness about identity theft, the agency will be embarking on a number of community outreach programmes and will work with the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency and embassies.
The police have reported a spike in identity theft in island. According to Superintendent Clifford Chambers of the Fraud Squad, 59 persons have been arrested and charged with uttering forged documents so far this year.
"The trend is rising," Chambers declared.
Last year 64 persons were arrested and charged while 59 arrests were made in 2010. In 2009 the Fraud Squad made 58 arrests.