Sunday, February 05, 2006 - Expert: Hijackers likely skilled with fake IDs - September 21, 2001 - Expert: Hijackers likely skilled with fake IDs - September 21, 2001

(CNN) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller has acknowledged that some of those behind last week's terror attacks may have stolen the identification of other people, and, according to at least one security expert, it may have been "relatively easy" based on their level of sophistication.

Chris McGoey is a San Francisco, California-based security consultant who has worked with numerous major retailers on combating identity theft. He's seen hundreds of falsified IDs, and while he hasn't seen the ones used by the alleged September 11 hijackers, he offers some insight into how they could have been obtained.

Fake identities can be created in a couple of different ways, he says; the perpetrators could obtain information about an actual person to get duplicate materials, or they could establish a virtual individual from scratch. The latter would be more difficult, says McGoey, since it would require the creation of documents.

According to McGoey, the key information these hijackers would have needed is Social Security numbers (often the unique identifier for business use), driver's license numbers, and date of birth or birth certificates. From there, they could assemble a new identity. Even a person's address or name would help them get started. A passport or visa would be more difficult to forge, says McGoey, but not impossible.

And since state ID such as a driver's license or birth certificate often vary by state or county, he adds, it's almost impossible for service employees to verify the authenticity.
"If you take an L.A. birth certificate to New York, they're probably not going to have a clue as to whether it's official or not," says McGoey.

"Could a common criminal on the street do this stuff? No. They're not sophisticated enough. These (the hijackers) are people who researched, planned and studied. They likely didn't have to go to a forger to do it."

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