How to Find Out If a Passport Number Is Real

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You cannot verify a passport number as a private citizen. There are things you can do to spot a false identity document, such as checking the number of digits in the passport number, but only a government official can validate the legitimacy of a passport. If you have asked to see a passport as part of the recruitment process and are concerned that it may be fake, contact the U.S. Department of State.

About U.S. Passport Numbers

Your passport number is located in the top right-hand corner of the page where your picture appears. Modern, biometric U.S. passports have nine digits, comprising only numbers. Older passport numbers can be anywhere between six and nine characters, comprising both letters and numbers. The passport number is unique to the passport holder and is used to verify your identity when you apply for a job or a visa, or when you go through passport control.

Spotting a Fake Passport

As a business owner, you may check passports regularly as part of your hiring processes or when taking on new clients. If you spot a passport number that has less than six or more than nine digits, there's a high chance that the passport is fake. Make an appointment with your local passport agency and have them check it for you. The same applies if you spot other obvious signs of forgery. Scammers sometimes doctor real passports by changing the name or birth date. If the font is different from the rest of the page, you're right to be suspicious.

Passports From Other Countries

Other countries have different ways of transcribing passport numbers. It is almost impossible for a private citizen to spot whether such a number is fake. Only the issuing agency – the passport department of the country that issued the original document – can verify a passport as current or valid. If in doubt, contact the consulate of the country that issued the passport and ask if it can verify it for you. The U.S. Department of State is tasked with investigating passport and visa fraud. If you suspect that fraud is being committed, report your suspicions to the Department of State.

Protect Yourself Through E-Verify

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services runs the online E-Verify system. Once enrolled, you can use E-verify to check the eligibility of your employees to work in the United States. E-Verify does not check passport numbers. Rather, it takes information from an employee's Form I-9 and cross references it against government records. The system will return any matches and verify whether the person is authorized to work in the United States. E-verify can help to protect your reputation as a responsible employer. If a new hire passes E-Verify, you don't have to worry whether her passport number is real or fake.

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About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.