The growing issue of identity fraud has rarely been out of the news recently, in the wake of the bodies of 39 people being found in a truck in Essex. Although the trial in the case has yet to start, another recent case saw an Oldham fraudster jailed for 4 years and 9 months over illegally obtaining British passports.

Fraud and Assisting Unlawful Immigration

Mohammed Asif, from Oldham in Greater Manchester, was found guilty of the charges of fraud, and assisting illegal immigration. Asif ran an immigration advice company, and charged people up to £10,000 for a passport which would enable them to live and work in the United Kingdom. Running an advice service is not illegal, and neither is providing assistance to legally obtain documents. However, Mr Asif and his accomplices went one step further. Asif targeted the relatives of people who had recently died, who were legally in the UK but of Pakistani origins. He stole immigration papers and other documents belonging to the dead UK resident and then used these to form the basis of fake applications for people who had no right to come into the UK.

In a further twist, it was revealed that Mr Asif was himself in the UK illegally, using documents obtained in the same way to get into the country. Several accomplices have also been arrested for related offences including fraud. The illegal applications were based on people claiming to be natural children of the two naturalised citizens who had died. Investigation into the applications began as far back as 2013, after staff at the Passport Office started to notice anomalies on several sets of applications all submitted through the immigration agency fronted by Mr Asif.

Implications for Identity Verification

From an employer’s point of view, this case raises a whole lot of issues when it comes to identity checking and verification. All good employers know that they have a legal duty to make sure people working for them are in the UK legally. But in this case, the people who had come into the UK using the passports issued through Mr Asif’s agency had genuine British immigration visas, issued to them and bearing their photographs and biometric data. No employer would have any reason to doubt their status in the UK.

Luckily, the law is on your side as an employer should you come up against who has been assisted into the UK by a fraudster. All that is required of an employer is that they take all reasonable steps to make sure that a candidate is who they say they are, and has legal documents. In this case, all passports and other documents were indeed genuine, and had been issued to the people involved. The fraud aspect went much deeper than simply putting someone else’s photo in a passport. Employers should definitely be aware of the scams which operate, and the tactics the fraudsters may use, but are not professional immigration investigators. There is no need to go beyond the usual steps of looking at passports and verifying identity to the best of your ability.