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  1. Homeland Security Investigations
  2. What We Investigate
  3. Identity and Benefit Fraud

Identity and Benefit Fraud

Identity and Benefit Fraud

HSI is the only agency that focuses on identity and benefit fraud crimes that originate outside of the United States.

Identity and benefit fraud threaten national security and public safety.

To commit these crimes, criminals steal and invent fake identity documents to enter the United States and defraud the government of various benefits. Artificial intelligence has enhanced criminals’ abilities to create fake identities that seem more realistic, which makes the threat even greater. In some cases, criminals use fake identity documents to get visas, get jobs, and access sensitive information. In fact, terrorists and other criminals have used fraudulent identities to enter or remain in the United States to commit acts of violence.

HSI is the only agency that focuses on identity and benefit fraud crimes that originate outside the United States.

Understanding Identity and Benefit Fraud

Criminals often use fraudulent documents to get genuine, government-issued documents that enable them to:

  • Get jobs.
  • Get bank accounts.
  • Gain access to sensitive information.
  • Get into sensitive locations, such as government buildings.

When criminals steal U.S. citizens’ identities, they can exploit financial information, social security numbers, credit cards, and other items to further their crimes. They sometimes even sell personal information to other criminals.

Employment-based, asylum and marriage fraud are common types of benefit fraud that allow people to enter or reside in the United States — particularly those who aren’t allowed to enter the country because of their criminal histories, or for other security reasons.

Identity and benefit fraud has moved into the digital space, meaning people can commit these crimes from anywhere in the world.

The Impacts of Identity and Benefit Fraud

The consequences of identity and benefit fraud are far-reaching and include:

  • National security threats. When criminals fraudulently obtain student visas, they gain access to proprietary data and research that they can funnel to adversaries. This information can be weaponized against the United States, placing the public in danger.
  • Impact on government programs. Identity and benefit fraud strain government programs by diverting resources away from those who genuinely need assistance.
  • Economic losses. When criminals fraudulently obtain work visas, they take jobs from qualified people who live in the United States. This lowers salaries for workers, creates challenges for companies that need specially trained workers, leaves legitimate workers jobless — all things that impact the U.S. economy.

HSI's Response to Identity and Benefit Fraud

HSI identifies sources of identity and benefit fraud, including document manufacturers, thieves, brokers, and even sponsors, attorneys and other U.S.-based people who enable criminals to apply for benefits. HSI works with its partners to address gaps and vulnerabilities in our systems to prevent criminals from committing these crimes.

Created and led by HSI, Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF) maximize resources, eliminate duplication of effort and promote information sharing.

DBFTFs include partners from:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  • Social Security Administration
  • Numerous other federal, state and local agencies

HSI's Forensic Laboratory is the only federal crime lab dedicated to forensic examination of travel and identity documents. Forensic document examiners analyze passports, visas, identity cards, birth certificates and related documents to determine if a document is real or has been altered.

Stopping Identity and Benefit Fraud

HSI is the U.S. government’s leader in investigating identity and benefit fraud. We are committed to finding and prosecuting criminals who prey on our people and systems for illegal access to benefits. HSI and its partners continue to target the criminal organizations behind these schemes and arrest those responsible.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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