Friday, December 23, 2005

How Safe Are We Really?

Millions of identities are stolen every year via data intrusions, organized malware attacks in the form of SPAM and even by simple "dumpster diving." There is no doubt a lot of this is organized by international criminal gangs, who seem to lack any morals and actively target the innocent and sometimes the most vulnerable members of society.

Here is an example of a recent prosecution, which illustrates how far reaching some of this activity is compliments of the U.S. State Department.

"A Guinean man convicted in February of operating a worldwide visa-fraud ring is going to prison for 10 years, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency announced December 21.

Abdulaziz Bah was sentenced at a U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a result of his conviction on charges of possession of fraudulent documents and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

This was a complex international scheme to defeat the border security of multiple nations. This fraud was exposed by the creativity and persistence of the ICE and Postal Inspection Service, said U.S. Attorney Charles W. Larson Sr. This elaborate fraud stretched from the far reaches of West Africa to the Central Plains of America.

The scheme in which both men were participants involved creating identities for impostors so that they appeared to be permanent residents, or green card holders, of the United States. The U.S. documents produced for the scheme were primarily permanent resident cards and Social Security cards. The conspirators also obtained high-quality counterfeit passports from African countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

The conspirators then filled out visa applications and mailed them, along with the fraudulent identity documents, to foreign consular offices located within the United States. The consular offices, believing the applicants were approved U.S. legal immigrants, issued visas and mailed them to U.S. addresses, including addresses in Cedar Rapids. In addition to Iowa, these visas were also mailed to: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C.

The conspirators then moved the visas and related false identity documents overseas, where unknown persons assumed the identities and traveled to the target countries for entry. The false identity documents seized by ICE investigators showed the main imposters were primarily males from various African countries between 16 and 45 years old."

ICE officials maintain this is the type of activity pursued by terrorists, and breaking the fraud ring has plugged a significant hole in international security."

For the full release, please read; Worldwide Visa-Fraud Conspirator Sentenced in United States.

If this activity is pursued not only by criminals, but also by terrorists, how safe are we really?

According to the release, this is the "result of an investigation launched by local ICE agents into an international visa fraud organization that allowed scores of unknown people to illegally enter as many as 23 countries worldwide using fraudulently obtained visitor's visas."

In one part of the release, it states terrorists pursue this activity and in another it states there are still scores of "unknown people" out there that have illegally entered as many as 23 countries. Could this mean that there might be terrorists out there in the scores of "unknown people?"

When they refer to terrorists pursuing this type of activity, we do have a precedent. The September 11 hijackers held fraudulent Virginia driver's licenses, which were obtained with other fake documents.

According to a document published five years ago, Illegal Immigration, 7 million illegal immigrants were in the United States and the number was growing. In order for these people to work, they need identification. With millions of fresh identities stolen yearly by organized criminal elements, we have a potential for disaster if terrorists can easily hide themselves in this activity.

Organized criminals already control the flow of illegal immigrants across borders and in fact, we already face a lot of criminal activity (some of it barbaric) as a result of this. Illegal immigrants are already known to be used in the drug trade, for prostitution and for "slave" labor in addition to committing financial crimes.

Here is the State Department's 2005 Report on the trafficking of humans.

This indicates the seriousness of "identity theft" crisis, we are facing daily and how it might tie into other issues in the news. The potential goes beyond mere financial crimes and poor refugees trying to make a better life for themselves.

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