Identity fraud is an ongoing legal offense as fraudsters develop new techniques in order to gain benefits or to harm others. In this article, we will take a look at how Identity fraud is handled in Brazil.
Definition of Identity Fraud in Brazil
Identity fraud is addressed by the Brazilian Penal Code as false identification. It is defined as: “To falsely assign identity to oneself or assign it to a third party in order to obtain advantages for oneself or others, or in order to harm others.”
The Brazilian Penal Code establishes penalties for Identity fraud crimes which can vary from three months to one year of detention, or imposition of a fine if the occurrence was not part of a more serious offense. In cases where fraud is used in order to commit more serious crimes that hold a heavier sentence, the attempted fraud will be dismissed and the criminal will be charged for the more serious crime instead.
Data on attempted Identity Fraud in Brazil
According to Serasa Experian, one of the main credit scoring entities in Brazil, Identity fraud in Brazil is becoming an increasing problem. In May 2014, Serasa identified 171.325 attempted frauds, which is an average of one attempted fraud every 15,6 seconds. Attempted fraud has grown by 9,4% between April 2014 to June 2014.
Amongst the main Identity frauds in Brazil that were assessed in the survey, attempts relating to the telecommunications industry are most common. In May 2014 the total number of attempts was 64.329, 37,5%. Next comes the service sector - which includes real estate agents as well as construction and insurance companies - with 54.823 attempts, and finally, the banking sector which registered 34.632 fraud attempts, accounting for 20,2% of the total number.
Identity fraud attempts often happen when:
- Buying goods such as electrical appliances, cellphones, etc
- Requesting a social service, like Bolsa Família
- Buying goods with a credit card or opening a bank account under another person’s name
How the government is fighting Identity Fraud
Identity fraud is a big problem in Brazil – in part because the current systems that register peoples documents are not centralized. The Registro Geral, which is the Brazilian Identification Document, for example, is registered in every state and each state has its own database which are not effectively connected. Therefore, an individual might get 27 different registers in the 27 different Brazilian states.
Stopping Identity fraud will have an enormous financial impact. The Brazilian government currently wastes an estimated BRL 15 billion every year on social services that were requested via Identity fraud.
Even without a national ID card, Brazil has started to use digital signatures and biometric data in order to enhance the efficiency of government services and to lower the number of fraudulent claims. For example, many courts in Brazil operate entirely with electronically signed documents, operating much more efficiently than before.
There is a project that is still being tested concerning a new Identification Document, which will be called Registro de Identidade Civil, Portuguese for Civil Identity Registry or simply RIC. It would use smart card technology, similar to a plastic card with a microchip and would gather data regarding the individual’s Registro Geral, CPF, Voter Registration Card and other relevant information. The database for this new document would then be integrated with a computerized fingerprint identification system. The RIC was conceived in order to integrate all personal information databases in Brazil. The RIC was implemented testing trials in a handful of cities in Brazil in January 2011, but the project has been suspended and has no date to be resumed.
Protection against Identity Fraud
The main recommendations to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to not provide personal information to strangers, especially over the phone. It is important to be aware of calls relating to promotions and surveys.
Another precaution to be taken, is not registering on websites that are not trustworthy and avoid making bank account transfers on portable computers which are connected to open internet networks. It is also necessary to limit the amount personal information that is displayed on social networks as this is a very common way that fraudsters pass themselves of as their victim.
Serasa Experian offers a variety of products to help you protect your personal documents from fraud attempts. One of the services offered, the MeProteja, tracks data alterations made on your CPF registry, warning the service contractor of possible frauds. SPC, another credit scoring company in Brazil, offer a similar service named SPC Avisa, also covering alterations in the CNPJ, the National Registry of Legal Entities. Boa Vista Serviços, a third credit scoring company, offer a similar service, the Radar Pessoal.
Whenever someone loses their documents or is robbed, that person can contact Serasa Experian and ask them to issue a warning to all entities that make checks on Serasa’s database. This way, if someone attempts to fraud another person’s identity to perform any commercial operation that involves checking Serasa’s database, the company hired to perform the service is warned that it is an Indentity Fraud. A similar service is offered by SPC, and is called SPC Alerta de Documentos. Boa Vista Serviços also offer a similar service called SOS Cheque e Documentos.