This week while doing some OSINT research I came across a forged Polish national identity card.
Fake documents like these are normally available on dark web markets for 300 – 500 euro, depending on the type of the document and the quality of the forgery.
Now this might be surprising to some, but forged Polish documents are readily available for even less on the clearnet, being sold as “collectable merchandise”, under some of the most ludicrous of pretences, including:
- “temporary replacements in case the original document is lost”
- “to pull a prank on your friends”
- “to expand your collection”
- “to give your family members an unusual gift”
Regulators and law enforcement agencies in Poland and in Europe generally have struggled for years with forged identity documents due to the rapid advancements in tech that allow for the creation of very sophisticated forgeries.
I recall from my own days in law enforcement that whenever I encountered a suspected fake ID, what followed was a tedious process of paperwork, chain of evidence, obtaining expert witness statements and sometimes contacting another law enforcement agency in order to establish the suspect’s true identity.
Several years ago somebody discovered a loophole in the Polish legislation and it transpired that while creating false documents is a criminal offence, creating “a collectable copy” for purposes other than passing the fake document as a real one, is allowed.
Polish legislators made a push last year to close the legal loophole, yet the majority of the websites offering fake IDs are still operating. Some moved to hosting services located abroad, including US, while others operate with impunity from Poland.
It is surprising, the ease with which one can just Google phrases like “collectable Polish documents” and be presented with a selection of websites selling anything, from fake driving licences to forged travel documents.
Some websites no longer limit their services only to Polish ID cards, but they have started catering for the general European customer base – you can simply select a document template from a variety of European countries, send your photograph and whatever false details you want to populate the card with, customise a little, and you’re good to go.
One could write a book on examining forged documents and what to focus on, but the scope of this article will be examination of Polish ID cards. Luckily enough, “collectable” documents vary in quality and while some are faked to a really good standard, some won’t pass a closer, thorough examination.
So a couple of things to focus on:
Some photographs on the fake IDs do not conform to the standards required by the issuing authorities. This is because the person ordering a fake ID often does not know what types of photographs are accepted and what types are not.
For instance, in the fake ID I recently encountered, the photo was not aligned correctly and was not as per the guidelines for national ID cards in Poland.
I took the image below from the official website of a local authority in charge of issuing documents. Any photograph like those below would have been rejected immediately by the issuing authority.
Therefore, any ID that has a non-conforming photograph should immediately be treated with suspicion.
2. Spelling mistakes
Polish language can be tricky – it is full of special characters that you won’t encounter in English:
Ą, Ć, Ę, Ł, Ń, Ó, Ś, Ź, Ż
Paying attention to these might be problematic if you don’t speak the language, but the rule of thumb here is that if the ID card does not contain any of the above special characters, it should once again be treated as suspicious.
While in colloquial communication people sometimes drop these special characters, official documents must have them and must contain correct spelling.
3. Names on the card
To an English speaker all Eastern European names might look or sound similar, but there are big differences. You might need to seek assistance of a native speaker on this, but it is worthwhile to check the names contained on the ID card.
- first name
- middle name
- mother’s name
- father’s name
It is very unlikely for an individual to have for instance a Ukrainian first name and surname, while his or her parents’ first names are typically Polish. Bear in mind however that this CAN happen and there are people who for one reason or another have names that sound foreign when compared to their parents’ names. But this should be enough to examine a document like this closer.
Even the older Polish ID cards contain an advanced hologram, referred to as a kinegram.
This element of the card should change its colour depending on the angle / tilt of the document against the source of light.
You should also be able to see thin lines going diagonally downwards.
5. Micro print
To see this, you will need a magnifying glass.
Right under the REPUBLIC OF POLAND / IDENTITY CARD section there is this very thin line running horizontally. The micro print reads:
RZECZPOSPOLITA POLSKA DOWÓD OSOBISTY
…which means “Republic of Poland identity card”.
6. PESEL number
PESEL is a Polish language abbreviation of the Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population.
This is a unique number given to every citizen of Poland at the moment they are registered with official authorities after their birth.
The PESEL number on the card’s reverse side should follow a specific format, and this is where a fake ID card will often get this wrong.
Legitimate PESEL numbers have this format:
- YYMMDD is the date of birth (with century encoded in month field),
- ZZZX is the personal identification number,
- X denotes a person’s sex (even number for females, odd number for males)
- Q – a check digit
Sometimes a quick comparison between the date of birth on the front of the card and the PESEL format where the date of birth should be encoded will be enough to spot a forged ID.
Alternatively, you can always Google the PESEL number on the ID you suspect to be fake, or search data breach databases to see can you find a genuine PESEL number somewhere, linked to a completely different identity.
Note that the field where the PESEL number is embedded contains laser engraved micro lines that you should be able to feel under your finger.
7. UV responsive elements
Shine a UV light on the ID card and you should be able to see the following UV responsive elements:
BONUS: Address verification using OSINT
You should always endeavour to geo-locate the address written on the ID card that you suspect to be fake. Google Maps can be your best friend, and the street view can offer a great level of detail.
This is another detail that betrays fake ID cards – not many people actually research the false address they put on the card and some discrepancies can be found:
- incorrect postal code
- non existent flat number
- non existent street name
- incorrect town or region
Finding single houses is pretty straightforward, but many people in Poland still live in the old, post-communist blocks of flats.
So let’s imagine our fake ID contains the following address:
(this address does not actually exist)
23-456 is our postal code. A quick Google search for Krakow postal codes will tell us straight away that in that city the code starts with a 30. So instantly we can see there’s something wrong.
The second line of a Polish address normally gives you the name of the street, followed by a house number, or as seen above, a block of flats 3A, flat 78.
So let’s assume that this address does exist and we located the block of flats on Google:
Typical communist era blocks of flats were built in segments, which contained a central staircase and a flat on each side of the staircase.
So one segment contains a total of ten flats, one flat accounts for two windows on each side of the staircase.
Flat 78 in this case does not exist – there are simply not enough segments in this block.
This is it, thanks for reading. Hopefully this will be of some us to those of you who encounter Polish ID cards on a regular basis. PS. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates on new articles!