PARIS — Criminal networks are busier than ever faking, forging and doctoring travel documents, identity papers, drivers' licenses and social security cards, authorities say.
Experts in document and identity fraud from Europe, the U.S., Canada and other countries were holding a closed-door meeting Thursday in Paris to share expertise and find ways to best use improving technology to crack the networks of increasingly sophisticated fraudsters.
Agents from Europol and Frontex, Europe's police and border patrol agencies, and representatives of high-tech companies were among the 180 police, immigration specialists and other experts at the daylong meeting.
Document and identity paper fraud fuels the movement of migrants across borders and spawns social welfare scams. It also leaves migrants vulnerable to traffickers and crime groups for years.
"Document fraud is an extraordinary vector that gives access to all aspects of crime," said Jean-Michel Brevet of the French Border Police's Documents Fraud Office.
Almost half of the 226 networks of illegal immigration dismantled in France last year centered on fake documents, he said.
In a case cracked last year by French police, an Iraqi-Kurdish network sent people from Mosul, Iraq — a city recently taken over by Islamic State extremists — to Istanbul, then Sao Paulo, Brazil, then to the Brazilian town of Belem and on to Cayenne in French Guiana.
"From there, they had the possibility of going either to Orly (an airport outside Paris) or to Frankfurt," Brevet said, adding that migrants had to pay $10,000 for the false documents and $5,000 more for the trip.
Technological improvements to make documents harder to tamper with have proven to be a double-edged sword, according to false documents police expert Laurent Gauthier. Technology also "facilitates the work of fraudsters" who can, for example, easily procure high-resolution inkjet printers that make it "much more difficult to detect false documents with a quick look."
"It's always a race against time," Gauthier said.