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How to tell if a passport is genuine

Updated November 21, 2016

Fake passports are used in all sorts of crimes. People use fraudulent passports to smuggle contraband, enter countries illegally and/or commit financial misdeeds. Since passports are considered essential pieces of personal identification they are commonly used by countless citizens. Many state and federal agents, from police officers to border personnel, as well as private industry representatives come into contact with passports on a daily basis. Knowing how to tell if a passport is genuine is the key to identifying the honest from the unlawful.

Examine the passport number. Make sure the passport number contains only numbers if it is an American document. American passport numbers only possess digits. If letters are present in the nine digits, red flag it as a possible forgery.

Notice the order of information in each line. Date of birth, date of issue and date of expiration information are always listed in the following order: day, month and year. For example, an issue date may read: "23 November 2010." Disordered information is an indication the document is a fake.

Check out the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) line at the bottom of the passport. Look for the passport holder's country of origin designation (abbreviation) and birthday date in the centre of the line. Find the "USA" abbreviated demarcation, followed by the birth date in numerical code: "231110," for instance. Any alternate letters or digits in this part of the MRZ line is indicative of a passport forgery.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
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About the Author

Jeffery Keilholtz began writing in 2002. He has worked professionally in the humanities and social sciences and is an expert in dramatic arts and professional politics. Keilholtz is published in publications such as Raw Story and Z-Magazine, and also pens political commentary under a pseudonym, Maryann Mann. He holds a dual Associate of Arts in psychology and sociology from Frederick Community College.