How can you spot a fake passport?

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Identity check

Equipped with sophisticated security features, the passport aims to guarantee the authenticity of the holder's identity and prevent fraud attempts. Despite these measures, passports are still widely counterfeited. This makes it crucial for authorities and private companies to be able to recognize a fake passport.


In this article, we'll explore the different methods and technologies used to recognize a fake passport. We'll look in detail at the security features found on genuine passports. But also technological advances such as the RFID chip and automatic detection systems. We will also highlight the importance of training passport verification staff. Particularly in the context of remote verification, increasingly common in the modern world.


Visual safety features


The French biometric passport features over 100 security features. These features are difficult to replicate. They enable us to identify forged passports. These 100+ security features can be grouped into different categories. We will now describe these categories and security techniques in detail.


MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) belt

False passport: example of MRZ

La bande MRZ, en français “Zone lisible par machine”, est généralement située au bas de la page principale des données personnelles du passeport. C’est une série de caractères encodés de manière standardisée. Sur les passeports, la bande MRZ commence comme cela : “<PFRA{NOM}<<{PRÉNOM}<<<<<<<…”. Elle contient des informations telles que le nom du titulaire, la date de naissance, le numéro de passeport et la nationalité. Ces données sont disposées de manière spécifique pour faciliter la lecture automatique par des scanners et des lecteurs optiques.


The MRZ band also boasts advanced security features that make it difficult for fraudsters to reproduce. The characters are printed in a specific font (OCR-B) with a precise layout. This font is used in particular for its legibility and standardization. Thanks to this, the layout of the characters, as well as their size and spacing, are not common. This makes forgery of MRZ tape more difficult without specialized equipment and in-depth expertise.


Specialized software can detect errors or inconsistencies in the MRZ strip data. This can indicate an attempt to falsify or modify it, to create a false passport. The MRZ strip is therefore an essential component of modern passports. It offers a combination of practical functionality and advanced security measures to guarantee the integrity of official identity documents.



Holograms to detect forged passports

Holograms are "complex three-dimensional images". Simply put, they are specific patterns with a visual effect. For example: the map of the world, the map of France and the Marianne, visible when you tilt your passport. These specific patterns or symbols are usually embedded in the document. Holograms are usually represented by national logos, government emblems or unique security features. Many passports feature a hologram that changes color or shape when tilted in the light. This effect is complex and difficult to reproduce using traditional means.


Holograms are created using advanced manufacturing techniques. For example, optical lithography or photoengraving. These methods enable detailed images to be produced with great precision. Holograms can also be equipped with additional security features. These take the form of microtext or hidden patterns (which are only visible under certain lighting conditions or with the use of special equipment).


Holograms play a crucial role in verifying the authenticity of passports. They provide a fast, reliable visual method of detecting forged passports.


During a physical inspection

It is possible to tilt the passport or use special lamps. These enable the holograms to be examined in detail, looking for signs of falsification or fraudulent alteration.


For remote control

Artificial intelligence (AI ) enables very precise control of alterations. Technologies using AI have received advanced training. Comparison with dummy modelsenables a counterfeit hologram to be recognized in a matter of moments.




Watermarks are designs printed during the passport manufacturing process. They are created by variations in paper thickness or density. This printing technique creates a visual effect of chiaroscuro. Watermarks are often discreetly positioned in different parts of the passport, such as the personal data pages or visa pages. They can represent national symbols, government emblems or other motifs specific to the passport-issuing country.


Watermarks serve as an additional security measure, as they are difficult to reproduce accurately. Because they are integrated into the structure of the paper, watermarks cannot be printed or copied. This makes them extremely difficult to counterfeit. What's more, watermarks are often designed with great precision and visual complexity.


Genuine watermarks often feature fine detail and sharpness of print. Conversely, forged watermarks can appear blurred or irregular. What's more, watermarks can be equipped with additional security features, such as microtext or hidden patterns. Watermarks are therefore an important security measure for guaranteeing the authenticity of passports.



Microtext example

Microtexts are extremely small and difficult to read with the naked eye. They are integrated into the design of genuine passports. Microtexts can be seen in the background, on every page of the passport. These are usually printed at very high resolution using specialized printing techniques. This makes them invisible without the use of special equipment or a magnifying glass. Microtexts can contain phrases, numbers or other specific information.


Microtexts serve as an additional security measure due to their small size and difficulty in being reproduced accurately. Because of their high resolution and tiny size, microtexts cannot simply be printed or copied. This makes them extremely difficult to counterfeit.


When checking the authenticity of a passport, it is possible to examine the microtext closely. Genuine microtexts are often clearly printed and legible, even at a very small size. On the other hand, counterfeit microtexts on fake passports may appear blurred or irregular. What's more, microtexts may have additional security features, such as hidden patterns or verification codes.


Optically variable mark

Detecting forged passports

The optically variable mark is designed to change color or appearance depending on the angle and source of light. 2 optically variable marks are clearly visible on French passports:

  • The circle on the bottom left of the ID photo.
  • A hexagon at the top right of the same page.


OVI ink is produced with special pigments and additives that react optically. This optical reaction creates a dynamic visual effect that is difficult to reproduce. Changes in color or appearance under different light conditions or angles can indicate the authenticity of the document.


Advanced technologies to recognize forged passports


RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chip


The RFID, or Radio-Frequency Identification, chip enables electronic information to be stored and transmitted. Integrated into the passport, this chip contains the holder's biometric and personal data. This includes the passport holder's photograph, fingerprints and travel details.


RFID technology offers several advantages in terms of security and convenience. The data stored in the RFID chip is encrypted and secure. This guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of the holder's personal information. RFID-enabled passports are also compatible with automated control systems.


Automatic counterfeit passport detection systems


Automatic detection systems enable passports to be checked for authenticity quickly and accurately. These systems use different technologies:

  • Optical recognition
  • Spectroscopy
  • Image analysis


The combination of these methods enables passport security features to be identified. This makes it easy to spot forged passports and attempted fraud.


The use ofalgorithms andartificial intelligence (AI) enables holograms, watermarks and microtexts to be identified quickly and accurately. These tools are capable of operating autonomously and raising alerts when a potential forged document is detected. Experts in the fight against document fraud can then intervene to give a more precise verdict.


Datakeen's IDify tool enables automated verification of passports and other ID documents. We use AI to pre-process official documents. Attempted fraud can be automatically blocked and verified by an expert in identity control.


Image analysis


Image analysis relies on the use of specialized software and image analysis algorithms. This technique enables agents to inspect a document to identify a fake passport. They can zoom in or compare certain details with genuine models. However, this requires specialized skills and in-depth training.


Usually carried out automatically by AI tools, image analysis makes it possible to examine every detail in minute detail. These include:

  • Print quality
  • Contour sharpness
  • Color consistency


Image analysis can also include comparison with the passport holder's photograph. Facial recognition software can help verify the match between a portrait and the passport photo. This comparison confirms the identity of the passport holder. Any attempt at substitution orfraudulent use of the document is thus detected.


Using external information to identify a false passport


Cross-referencing passport data with information from external databases enables authenticity to be verified.


Specialized governmental organizations


Specialized governmental organizations are key players in the fight against document fraud. They are responsible for developing policies, regulations and procedures to detect forged passports and enhance the security of official documents. These organizations are often responsible for issuing and managing passports. But they are also responsible for supervising border controls and enforcing laws against document fraud.


Government agencies specializing in identity document security work closely with other government agencies. These include police, intelligence and homeland security agencies. Sharing information and resources coordinates efforts to combat counterfeit passport fraud.


As a rule, governmental organizations publish anti-fraud techniques. These methods enable each individual to increase his or her critical eye in the face of increasingly frequent attempts at fraud and identity theft. It is therefore important to take these tips into account when checking a French passport or other identity document.


Partnerships with independent experts in passport forgery detection


Independent experts are generally qualified professionals specializing in the detection of forgeries and counterfeits. They can be called upon to provide advice, training and consultancy services on best practices in document security.


At Datakeen, our teams are advised by independent Border Police experts. They help us establish effective controls on a wide range of identity documents.


These experts can provide technical and strategic expertise. They can identify areas for improvement in controls, fraud risks and corporate security. In addition, independent experts can play an important role in staff awareness and training. Their contribution can help improve employee skills.




In conclusion, the detection of document fraud is a crucial priority in guaranteeing corporate security. Effective verification involves a number of elements. First and foremost, the security features built into genuine passports. These are combined with the use of advanced detection technologies and collaboration between the various stakeholders. However, combating document fraud remains a constant challenge, requiring ongoing vigilance, investment in technology and staff training.


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