Honduras: Identity theft concerns authorities

Honduras’ National Registry of Persons wants to update its technology, making it harder for criminals to commit identity theft and other crimes.  (René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com)

Honduras’ National Registry of Persons wants to update its technology, making it harder for criminals to commit identity theft and other crimes. (René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com)

By René Novoa for Infosurhoy.com – 06/08/2012

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The National Registry of Persons (RNP), which is in charge of providing identification cards, wants to make it more difficult for criminals to commit identity theft in this Central American nation of eight million.

The RNP expects to introduce an identification card printed on high-quality laminate containing a microchip that will store the owner’s marital status, social security number, driver’s license, taxpayer number and general medical information.

The revamping of the system is expected to cost $700 million lempiras (US$36.8 million), but the RNP has received about US$1.2 million of the US$8.3 million allocated by the Executive Branch, according to Jorge Reina García, RNP’s director.

“Half [of the US$1.2 million] was invested in bringing technology to some of the [regional] civil registries, and the other half went to salaries,” said Gerardo Martínez, RNP’s assistant technical director.

Marvin Ponce, the vice president of the National Congress, said the rest of the funding won’t be delivered because “the finance secretariat has given priority to other institutions, neglecting the National Registry of Persons.”

One of the reasons the RNP is adamant a new system is needed is that criminals can create forged documents rather easily, Reina García said.

The material used to make the identification cards by the RNP, which also is in charge of providing all of the information to Supreme Court of Elections (TSE) so it can produce voting lists and censuses, also is easily forgeable.

The existing cards are made on Teslin, a low-cost plastic that is easily accessible and can be used on many printers, allowing criminals to produce counterfeit IDs, Reina García added.

For the past 16 years, the RNP has had just one printer to produce the more than 20,000 identification cards requested monthly.

Those in possession of counterfeit identification cards can use them to request Honduran passports, allowing them to enter and leave the country. The fake IDs can also be used as identification to start a business to mask illegal activities, and can be used by foreigners to establish businesses in Honduras without having to pay additional taxes.

The system also hasn’t been digitalized in rural areas, enabling criminals simply to take the identity of the deceased or alter someone’s birth certificate and use it as their own, Reina García said.

Banks also have become victims of forged ID cards, as the sector doesn’t have the tools to distinguish fake cards from real ones, Martínez said.

“The national banks don’t have the necessary mechanisms in place to catch [fake documents], which is why a more modern identification card is needed,” he said.

The government bolstered its fight against identity theft in 2010 by creating the Commission Against Fraud, which is formed by authorities from the Public Ministry, the RNP, the Special Services Directorate of the National Police and the Interior Ministry.

The commission has found at least 20 cases of document falsification in the past two years, including two involving RNP employees and 14 former RNP employees, according to Emily Rosa Portillo, the head of the RNP’s Legal Inspectorate, which is in charge of investigating document falsification and identity theft.

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