Passport Security Features & Document Validation: Using Invisible Ink & Intaglio Print For Verifying Identities

ID document validation (and detecting fraudulent identity documents) is a major part of a robust Know Your Customer (KYC) process. Authenticating and verifying government-issued identity documents is becoming more complex and costly due to the innovative ways in which money launderers, fraudsters, and identity theirs are using even the most rudimentary tools to try to spoof identities and create false identity documents. Passport security features include chips containing biographical information, invisible ink, and optical variable ink. These are bad actors’ worst enemies as identity experts and identity verification services are keen to ensure these are present when they are verifying identities

Passport security and the elimination of tampering and passport duplication is one of the most important goals of organizations monitoring the black identity document market. As soon as passport creators and security companies find ways to implement enhanced security features, bad actors and identity thieves find ways to undermine these efforts to continue their illicit activities. 

Fraudulent identities and fake passports are often used by criminals to:

  • to obtain credit
  • open deposit accounts
  • receive driver’s licenses 
  • obtain passports 

There are several new security features that have been implemented to deter fraudsters and bad actors from duplication and tampering with identity documents such as passports and Real IDs. During the id document verification process, the presence of several anti-counterfeit security features can make the process of identity verification easier and more secure. These features can help you catch fraudsters before they commit irreparable damage.

Passport Security Features & Document Validation

New Passport Anti-Counterfeit Security Features Protect Against Fraud & Complex Identity Crimes

While the digitization of the process of transferring and receiving money has evolved, it has certainly brought some setbacks with it, one of the biggest being the possibility of fraud especially relating to synthetic document creation and document tampering. Verifying identities and avoiding forgeries would be much more challenging without the anti-counterfeit features below. 

Optical Variable Ink (OVI)

Optical variable ink (also called color-shifting ink) is one of the hallmark security features in some passports around the world. Optical Variable Ink is one of the most important passport security features. This is a very expensive ink to produce and is therefore only included on high denomination notes or high-value documents. Being able to identify high-value documents with this security feature during the id document verification process is very important. 

This anti-counterfeiting measure is used on: 

  • Credit cards
  • Fidelity cards
  • Revenue stamps
  • Professional license documents 
  • Banknotes (large denomination such as the $100 bill)

The anti-counterfeit features and the practical use of optical variable ink are quite broad. OVI ink can be seen at different angles and can be used as a way to differentiate a valid card or document from one that has been manufactured or tampered with. Many cards, licenses, and licensure documents carry this type of anti-counterfeit measure as well as many additional security features. The more security features there are, the harder the passport or document is to duplicate or manufacture. Some features make this process nearly impossible. 

Detailed Specifications of OVI Ink

  • Contains microscopic pigments to assist in id document validation
  • Pigments are interference filters, leading to large color shifts depending on the angle of observation or tilt
  • Photochronic inks used to create banknotes are under strict control by governmental agencies 
  • Photochronic inks such as OVI are extremely hard to tune for which creates a large barrier to entry for traditional print shops or printers in general

OVI ink is a critical tool in the identity proofing toolbox. If it is present, verifying identities becomes faster and less costly as manual verification can take time and resources.


If you’d like to know more about id document verification, contact our Identity Executives today.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Computer Chip

Passports contain another useful anti-counterfeit security feature: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) computer chips. This is a feature that has been embedded in all passports, personal or diplomatic, since 2007. RFID computer chips contain very sensitive data and a process that includes verifying identities cannot scale without cross-referencing this data against what is printed on biographical information pages of passports. 

This chip contains the following data: 

  • Biographical information 
  • Name, date, and address
  • Passport information

Contact one of our ID Document Validation Experts to learn more. 

UV Fluorescent Ink (Invisible ink)

An additional passport security feature includes UV Fluorescent Ink, commonly referred to as invisible ink, adds another layer of protection to the security features that exist on the modern passport. UV ink is considered a “Level 2” – or covert security feature – as the UV Florescent Ink is not seen by the naked eye. 

Common uses of UV Florescent Ink other than as a passport security feature  include:

  • Identify counterfeit products and protect luxury brands 
  • Label diversification and added security for electronics  

Forged or synthetic identities can be easily spotted by a trained identity executive because verifying identities all the time exposes you to all sorts of fake passports, identity fraud, and criminal typologies. 

Invisible Fluorescent Fibers

These fibers are a “substance feature embedded into the paper used to make passports”(PassportIndex) This security feature is a set of fibers that are invisible to the naked eye and to photocopies. This set of fibers is only visible under ultra-violet (UV) light. Having a UV light handy will make verifying identities twice as fast, if not faster. 

This feature adds many anti-counterfeit aspects to a document and can be used on:

  • High-security documents
  • Bank cheques/checks
  • Currency notes
  • High-value licensure documents

Positive & Negative Microtext & Intaglio Print 

“[M]icrotext refers to lines or designs which are made up of very small letters or numbers that are barely perceptible to the eye and often require the use of magnification.”(FutureCard) There are two types of micro text: positive and negative. 

Microtext can be seen on passports as “a thin line but when inspected under a microscope or magnifying glass, these lines are essentially repeating text with phrases like valid, authentic, genuine, or important serial numbers and other information. Microtext is an important add-on security feature that enhances many of the other security solutions…”(NanoSecurity) This type of text is hard to replicate as it is often overlooked by counterfeiters and bad actors. 

MLI® /CLI® /TLI: New Passport Security Feature(s)

Another passport security feature involves the use of images that can reflect differently as you tilt them. One of these security features is “Changeable laser image (CLI) – created by engraving two images into the card at 2 different angles. This creates a morphing image on the card when viewed at different angles, similar to a holographic type image. This requires a special card body with a lenticular area on the card to accept the laser engraving at two different angles. Typically, CLI is tilted on the lateral axis or short axis of the card.” (Advantidge) There are two other versions of this security feature: multiple laser image (MLI) and tilt laser image (TLI). 

These three types of laser images, and laser engraving, are a major passport security feature  and can be used on:

  • Driver Licenses 
  • National ID Cards
  • High-Security ID Cards
  • Government & Military ID Cards

 Intaglio Print: Making Verifying Identities Easier 

If you train your identity team well enough, they can catch any number of red flags during the know your customer/identity verification process. Passports also contain another key security feature: intaglio print. This is an etching or cutting type of printing process which is hard to replicate by fraudsters. Any company verifying identities should be familiar with this process.


Real ID Cards: Building on Passport Innovations To Protect Air Travelers

Identification cards with innovative security features have been implemented across the United States to deter identity card forgery. This type of identification card is now being mandated by airport security and government agencies to ensure passengers are who they say they are. Another important reason this was developed is because of the World Trade Center attacks and to enhance overall security as a whole. 

The Department of Health and Human Services website includes helpful information about this innovative new security advancement. The website states that, “DHS is committed to enforcing the REAL ID Act in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and regulatory timeframes. It has been 16 years since the REAL ID Act was passed and half of all the states have already met the REAL ID minimum standards.” (DHS)

Address Verification Services To Fight Fraud

The Real ID has specific security features that give authorities the confidence to know that biographical information is correct, valid, and produced by an independent source. Address information is one of the most commonly lifted pieces of data during synthetic identity fraud. 

A potential customer (bad actor) can engage in address spoofing or building a synthetic identity through the use of actually valid pieces of an identity stitched together to achieve some sort of financial gain. Using identity verification services that integrate this type of address verification into their process can detect spoofed, invalid, or inaccurate addresses. 

  • Street
  • City
  • Town
  • State
  • Ville
  • Province
  • Postcode
  • Code Postal 

Countries across the world have specific address formats and identification cards (some are easier to spoof or tamper with than others). Using proper address formatting and address verification is an important task. This can be seen as an addition to the passport security features that will protect your organization as you verify identities throughout the onboarding process. 

Passports Aren’t The Only Thing At Risk: ID Card Tampering & Synthetic Fraudsters


ID protection and fraud prevention are continually innovating as regulators and law enforcement authorities continuously face threats including: 

  • falsification by overprint
  • adding a laser-engraved personalization
  • simulating optical variable devices (OVD​)
  • grinding to access the core of a document 
  • high quality “intaglio printing​” look-alike in fake passports​,

Why Synthetic Fraud is a Problem

Synthetic fraud is the fastest-growing form of identity theft according to the US Federal Trade Commission. They state that it is one of the hardest forms of identity theft for businesses to detect. An Equifax study found that losses associated with this fraud amounted to around $25 million a year for communications and energy companies. Other business sectors are facing around $800 million in costs associated with synthetic fraud.

Synthetic fraud is bad for companies because they are the ones who are affected by it. Unlike other types of fraud like identity theft, there is no real consumer victim. This means the responsibility of dealing with synthetic identity fraud falls on the institutions that provide services to synthetic identities. Businesses can lose significant revenue dealing with the repercussions associated with synthetic identity fraud. Synthetic ID fraud is associated with 5% of uncollected debt and 20% in credit losses. Plus, businesses can lose more money by receiving fines for violating Know Your Customer (KYC) or Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations.

That is not the worst of it though. Reports state that synthetic ID theft is growing at a rate of 18% each year. This means companies must rally together to find solutions that stop synthetic fraud from happening.

Identity Document Spoofing, Synthetic Ids and Tampering

Identity document validation is a challenging task as bad actors and criminals are becoming more ingenious and often fly under the radar due to the simple nature of this crime. Passport security features help to deter this type of fraud and spoofing but there are still a few red flags to look for. 

Methods typically used in tampering are:

  • scratching
  • dissolving
  • cutting
  • opening using heat, solvents, and tools
  • adding a foil on top of the card with the impostor’s data

Contact one of our identity specialists to Schedule a Demo of IDMscan today.

IDMscan is a key solution that is a part of the IDMERIT identity verification service ecosystem. It is an application that scans customer identity documents, such as passports, to validate and authenticate their identity.

  • We can validate Passports, Drivers Licenses and National id’s from 175+ countries.
  • Biometric facial recognition & face liveliness technologies are used to produce a live match.
  • Multi-Language support 
  • Easily integrate into your system with a simple API.
  • Validate someone in less than 30 seconds

Stay tuned to our Identity Insights blog for more content relating to facial recognition, anti-spoofing, and identity verification. 

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Headquartered in San Diego, California, IDMERIT provides an ecosystem of identity verification solutions designed to help its customers prevent fraud, meet regulatory compliance and deliver frictionless user experiences. The company is committed to the ongoing development and delivery of offerings that are more cost-effective and comprehensive than other solution providers. IDMERIT was funded by experts who have been sourcing data on personal and business identities across the globe for over a decade. This access to official and trusted data throughout the world has become increasingly important as companies find themselves completing transactions across borders as a standard course of business.

Tony Raval
Tony Raval

Tony Raval brings more than 15 years of leadership in data technology as the Founder and CEO of IDMERIT, headquartered in Carlsbad, California. He leads an executive team including top data tech veterans to execute on his passion of creating a global data universe generating true and trusted intelligence. IDMERIT’s competitive success has come from the company’s ability to perform cross-border transactions, for which Tony and his team have developed a meticulous process and progressive technology. The company was launched as the result of a highly effective engagement with a leading global financial institution, whereby the company was uniquely able to triangulate multiple elements to create a comprehensive, and yet, frictionless experience. Tony has provided data intelligence to companies such as Google, SalesForce, and HP as well as clients across financial, government and other sectors seeking a superior partner in compliance and mitigating risk. He holds a Master’s Degree in computer engineering and data sciences, is an active member of the Entrepreneurs Organization San Diego and dedicated mentor to new entrepreneurs in EO’s Accelerator Program, enjoys meditation and running, and he and his wife Sonal recently celebrated their three-year-old son's birthday.

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