Sunday, October 21, 2012

Identity theft?

Passport Like many people, I am being asked for my passport with increasing frequency in order to prove my eligibility to work in the UK/EU.

My understanding of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 is that documentation such as a birth certificate and a National Insurance number is sufficient for this purpose. I'm also happy to allow people to see my passport and confirm that they have checked it. What I'm not happy to do is to send people my passport so that it is out of my possession for some time, or allow them to take photocopies of my passport and store them under who knows what degree of security. This requirement for "taking a photocopy" is usually presented as "the law". It isn't, and I refuse to allow anyone other than lawful authorities to have access to this sensitive information.

This means that it looks as if I will not be working as an Academic Associate for the UK HEA any more (unless I travel to York at my own expense to allow them to gaze wistfully at my credentials), and I may have difficulty claiming expenses lawfully incurred as part of travel as an invited speaker to a conference on an EU-funded project. In the latter case, it looks as if a trip to the Small Claims Court might be coming up to recover my costs.

So am I being unduly paranoid here? And are there any acceptable solutions to this problem?


  1. I'm in the same position and I have the same reservations - putting my passport in an envelope and sending it to someone I have never met so that they can do with it what they will causes me a lot of concern. I'm in the employ of a large public sector organization; why can't the HEA believe that the Open University have carried out these checks? Or that the prison service might have flagged up any issues when I was security cleared to visit prisons?

  2. Given that it's possible to use the data they've got on your passport in order to create a photo driving licence, you'd have thought there would be some way to go to that same central site & create a 1 use URL ID checker (a bit like the one use URLs they give you for writing references for GTTR).
    Maybe have it so that as an organisation (e.g. HEA) have to apply for permission to request one of these, so that security is guaranteed. (In so far as you can).

    Are other areas of work as paranoid as academia?

  3. I had the same request from the HEA, and was very reluctant to send my (Irish) passport in the post. I queried the need and was told that my birth cert would suffice. I wasn't thrilled at sending that either, to be honest.

    It was returned to me, safely, a couple of days later.

  4. Thanks Sharon, useful information - I'll bear that in mind.

  5. It is understandable to have some reservations about having other people photocopy your confidential and sensitive documents, as there is a chance that identity theft might happen on one of these occasions. I think you are doing a fine job of protecting yourself against this possibility. But if the situation requires you to do so, check with the agency’s procedure and ask for some assurance that your documents will be viewed privately by the authorities.