In July, the Spanish police and Europol seized thousands of counterfeit passports and ID cards in Barcelona. They carried out multiple raids to dismantle an organized crime group involved in document fraud, illegal immigration, and property crime among other things.
Police forces also seized equipment such as printers, laminators, professional document cutting tools, ID card chips, UV ink, and more. The criminals had ordered materials to create 10,000 fake Spanish ID documents and a thousand French documents.
A Disease For The Economy
Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that document frauds are so prevalent in the Internet-connected age where much of the world’s information is just a few clicks away.
The market for counterfeit documents such as passports, driving licenses, ID cards, and even educational certifications is booming.
Last year when the US government was sending out free money to the unemployed to help them battle the crisis, fraudsters from outside the United States stole over $400 billion from the US government. The fraudsters tricked the Department of Labor into sending them half the amount earmarked for unemployed Americans.
Whether it’s Brazilians flocking to the US border using fake documents and fake families, or people using fake vaccine certificates to enter another country, or job seekers lying on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles to land better opportunities, fake documents have pervaded into every aspect of life that requires documentary proof.
In education and job markets, people often misrepresent their credentials initially and then continue that misrepresentation over the course of their entire career.
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A New Perspective On Document Authentication
It has become increasingly difficult for organizations to verify and authenticate documents using the existing authentication systems for two reasons:
- The complex processes involved in verifying the authenticity of documents
- Fraudsters getting better at creating counterfeits that look identical to the genuine ones
Governments as well as private institutions have been looking for better authentication methods to stop document fraud. Many have tried to resolve it by designing more secure documents that are harder to counterfeit. However, it has only made fraudsters more creative in figuring out ways to create fake documents. A foolproof method has remained elusive.
So, authorities and institutions are leaning towards blockchain technology to secure, verify, and authenticate documents. The transparent and immutable nature of blockchain prevents anyone from tampering with the information recorded. Unlike traditional documents, it’s nearly impossible to tamper with a blockchain record without leaving a trail as every computer in the network has a copy of the document.
Blockchains maintain the integrity of a document by creating a hash. Since every single version of a document is time stamped and given a hash, institutions and organizations can keep track of when a document was added to the blockchain and when it was tampered with.
Cardano-based Blockademia is a project using blockchain to solve the problem of document fraud. It’s a decentralized information system that aims to bring authenticity to a wide range of documents including diplomas, certificates, insurance policies, title deeds, state documents, source codes, certificates of ownership, music and film rights, and other documents.
Blockchain provides automation and cost-effectiveness for issuers, besides giving easy access to the requested information. Another element that has attracted organizations to blockchain technology is the fact that it offers greater privacy than traditional document management systems because it anonymizes data and requires permissions to access certain documents.
Whether it’s educational institutions, insurance firms, pharmaceutical companies or state offices, anyone could issue and verify documents on the blockchain using platforms like Blockademia.
Given the rising number of false academic and professional credentials, it’s the need of the hour for institutions to issue their certificates and diplomas on the blockchain. That way, students get an immutable proof of their academic credentials, and institutions dramatically reduce the costs involved in issuing certificates and accessing their historical data.
Ethiopia has become one of the first countries to build a blockchain-based universal student credentialing system. In April this year, the Ministry of Education of Ethiopia partnered with Cardano to create secure records of “educational performance for 3,500 schools, 5 million students, and 750,000 teachers, giving all pupils verifiable digital qualifications and increasing social mobility.”
Cardano has demonstrated that its infrastructure will be capable of enabling administrators to create tamper-proof educational records of over five million students. The project aims to facilitate better administration and identify educational under-achievement to improve access to opportunities for high-quality education.
In the process, Ethiopia and Cardano are building immutable records of students’ academic credentials to stop educational fraud rampant in the job market.
Blockchain technology has found applications in multiple industries ranging from banking to supply chain management. It has all the right ingredients to reduce - or prevent altogether - document frauds that cost the global economy trillions of dollars a year. Issuing documents such as educational diplomas and certificates on blockchain is the first step towards a long-term commitment to bring a new level of authenticity.