US-VISIT data entry errors hamper ability to detect fraud

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The system that collects biometrics at U.S. ports of entry has 825,000 instances where the same fingerprints are associated with different biographic data, the Homeland Security Department office of inspector general says.

Most of problems in the system, called US-VISIT, come from data entry errors, but some are the result of fraud, auditors say in a report (.pdf) dated Aug. 13.

Some people have tried to enter the country multiple times with different biographic data--one set of fingerprints in US-VISIT was associated with nine different names, nine different birth dates and 10 attempts to enter the country.

US-VISIT's inability to tell if errors are intentional or accidental hinders its ability to give border enforcement agencies the information they need to stop improper entries, auditors say.

The system also gathers data from various federal agencies, some of which have different ways they collect their data. One agency might enter a person's date of birth manually while another collects it automatically from a passport, so data that should match sometimes doesn't. Auditors found one person whose name was spelled 17 different ways in 5 years.

Auditors also found records in US-VISIT that were listed as actual encounters, such as interactions at ports of entry, but were actually test data. Some records shared fingerprints with others but had different, made-up names like "Mickey Mouse" and "Jarvis Sample."

In 25,000 records, the date of birth was not recorded or implausible--some travelers entering the United States had the year 2049 listed as their birth year.

In some cases, the same fingerprints appear to have been used when processing more than one traveler at a port of entry. Auditors found one example where a single set of fingerprints was used for seven different people who entered the country over a few hours.

US-VISIT officials told auditors that in that case, fingerprints were re-recorded because of a fingerprint scanner "ghost image."

Officials also said that women who change their name after marrying are the source of some discrepancies. Auditors found 400,000 records where women had different last names but the same first name, fingerprints and date of birth.

For more:
- download the report, OIG-12-111 (.pdf)

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