South Mumbai RTO stumbles upon fake driving licence scam

A few applicants with bogus smart cards had approached the Tardeo RTO, on grounds of change of address on these documents, so that these fake licences would be automatically ratified; these racketeers had forged supporting documents like Aadhaar cards as well

Smart card driving licences replaced booklets on the grounds that these new documents would be foolproof and tamper-proof, thanks to the chip embedded in these cards.

Also read: Fake driving licence racket busted in Pune

The multi-layered scam also involved the submission of forged Aadhar cards, for bogus address proof
The multi-layered scam also involved the submission of forged Aadhar cards, for bogus address proof

But the Tardeo Regional Transport Office (RTO) — the first to be set up in the state — has stumbled across a scam where fake smart card driving licences are being ‘converted’ into genuine ones. But it was not technology that helped unearth the scam — RTO officials spotted the font used in these fake cards, which differed from the one that is normally used.

One of the smart card licences submitted to the Tardeo RTO, for a change of address, which would have ratified the document
One of the smart card licences submitted to the Tardeo RTO, for a change of address, which would have ratified the document

This scam has surfaced just days after new Transport Commissioner Sonia Sethi took over; illegal agents are also back inside the premises of various RTOs, busy in their nefarious activities.

Bogus operandi
Over the last few days, officials from the Tardeo RTO have come across nine cases involving fake driving licences. Sources said the applicants with the bogus cards had approached the Tardeo RTO on grounds of change of address from the other two RTOs at Wadala and Andheri.

A fake RTO form, made up to look like a document from the Wadala RTO, which was submitted at the Tardeo RTO
A fake RTO form, made up to look like a document from the Wadala RTO, which was submitted at the Tardeo RTO

This would mean that these scamsters were planning to convert these fake cards into ‘genuine’ ones by getting their change of address ratified by the Tardeo RTO on the new documents. Tardeo RTO officials confirmed that apart from the fake smart card licences which were submitted, the documents used by these applicants — like Aadhaar cards — to support their identity, were also forged.

“Even the Aadhaar cards were registered on a certain person’s name, but the photographs pasted on them were different,” said an official.

But how did the system not throw up the fact that the embedded chip in these fake cards was not a genuine one? “There was a theft of several (blank) smart cards from our office in May, after which we had filed a complaint too. It is possible that the information was embedded on the chips in these stolen smart cards,” said another Tardeo RTO official.

Technologically challenged
>> Lack of seamless connectivity between various RTOs in the state is a major issue. Though much of the work at these transport offices is computerised, each RTO operates on its individual LAN (Local Area Network). What is needed is a Wide Area Network (WAN) that will integrate Maharashtra’s 49 RTOs at the state and national levels, but that’s still a work in progress
>> Once the WAN is in place, an official, say, from the Andheri RTO will be able to confirm if a licence submitted to him and registered in the Tardeo RTO is genuine or otherwise
>> Officials also feel that the software provided by the National Informatics Centre, used for managing smart card information, can be easily duplicated, as these fake licences submitted to the Tardeo RTO were almost identical to the real ones

How did the staff identify the fakes?
>> The staff at the Tardeo RTO claimed that it was very difficult to differentiate the original from the fake ones, as the bogus cards carried an embedded chip inside, sported a similar colour combination, and the gaps between two words in the Roman script were more or less like the original. But there were spelling mistakes in the Devanagari script — both on the fake Aadhaar cards and smart card licences. It’s not clear at this point if the fake cards submitted were created from the blank cards stolen from the
Tardeo RTO
>> Again, both the Devanagari and Roman script fonts were much larger than normal, and the font types were different. This is when the Tardeo RTO decided to cross-verify with the two other Mumbai RTOs. “Even the format of the form that needs to be filled up for change of address was unusual. Moreover, the signatures of the RTO officer in-charge were fake,” said another RTO officer
>> If the scamsters had succeeded in getting their change of address ratified, they would have automatically received ‘genuine’ driving licences from the Tardeo RTO

Meter down, fares up
Get ready to shell out R18 as the minimum fare for autos and R22 for taxis, as well as a higher fare per subsequent kilometre, with the recalibration of electronic meters beginning at Bandra-Kurla Complex yesterday. Work on the meters began only at 5 pm, however, and the meters of only 25 autos were recalibrated. “There are technical issues for taxis because of which we will start on them later,” said an official from the Legal Metrology Organisation’s Weights and Measures department.

Autos

The RTOs handled the recalibration until now, and this is the first year that the Weights and Measures Department is doing it. “From tomorrow, the (recalibration) work will be done at eight locations and we will try to recalibrate the meters of 4,500 autos in a day,” said Sanjay Pandey, controller, Legal Metrology Organisation. Pic/Sameer Markande

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