From cheating banks to faking identity, Aadhaar frauds peak in 2018: Report

At a recent court hearing, UIDAI admitted that 6% of Aadhaar authentication requests using fingerprints transactions are known to fail

In January 2018, eight persons were arrested in Chandigarh for purchasing expensive mobile phones with fraudulent loans secured using fake Aadhaar cards. The accused, among whom were former bankers and employees of a finance company, had placed their own photographs on others’ Aadhaar cards to secure bank loans, and were booked for cheating, fraud, forgery and criminal conspiracy under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

This is just one among the 73 incidents of misuse of the Unique Identity Authority of India’s (UIDAI) Aadhaar programme that have been reported in the English-language media so far this year (up to May 7, 2018). This averages nearly four incidents each week, as per a new database created by independent researchers Anmol Somanchi and Vipul Paikra.

Of these, 52 cases involved fake or forged Aadhaar numbers–coming up with entirely new Aadhaar enrolment based on fake details, or forging existing cards by replacing certain details like photographs–and 21 involved Aadhaar-related banking frauds.

In the six years since the launch of the Aadhaar programme in September 2011, 164 cases of forged or fake Aadhaar numbers and Aadhaar-related banking frauds have been reported in the English-language media, thedatabase noted. These include 123 cases of fake or forged Aadhaar numbers or cards and 41 cases of Aadhaar-related banking fraud.

“This database does not include the whole gamut of reported incidents of Aadhaar-related fraud and forgery,” Somanchi told IndiaSpend. “We had initially included Hindi reports and found more such incidents. However, since we couldn’t include all other regional languages we restricted the database to English news reports.”

Several attempts to reach out to the UIDAI for comment on the findings of the database met with no response. On April 30, 2018, IndiaSpend reached out to the office of the chief executive officer of UIDAI via email. On May 2, 2018, we reached out again and were told by the communications team that UIDAI would get back to us. On May 3, 2018, IndiaSpend reached out a third time, telephonically. On May 8, 2018, we sent out a third email.

The story will be updated with the Authority’s response when we receive one.

Lack of clarity

“The ambiguity around Aadhaar has led to an increasing number of cases where citizens are swindled of their money,” Somanchi said. “India is still grappling with limited financial, technological literacy–people aren’t sure of what they should or should not share and the authorities have failed to provide that clarity.”

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