Do US Visa Documents Have A Typo?

from the time-to-change-the-fraud-prevention dept

Our friends over at the always excellent Notcot were recently playing around with a microscope and noticed what certainly appears to be a typo on the US visa and border crossing card. The back of the card has very tiny etchings of every US president and every state flag — but the etching of 6th US president John Quincy Adams appears to have a typo, calling him John Quincy Adames with an “e” added into the last name. Take a look:

That seems like a pretty big mistake. However, some are suggesting that it was done on purpose. In the comments to the Notcot post, two specific theories are presented: the first is that JQA changed his last name to distinguish himself from his father. Doing some quick searches around various bios of Adams, however, shows absolutely no support for this one. Even the White House’s own page on JQA spells it Adams and makes no mention of such a change.

The other explanation makes a lot more sense. It’s that this is a form of fraud/counterfeiting detection. Similar to how dictionaries would sometimes insert a fake word or phone books would insert fake people/numbers to try to “catch” if anyone was copying their work, perhaps the US government added the extra “e” on the assumption that counterfeiters would actually spell JQA’s name correctly — thus giving them a way to spot a fake. Of course, that’s a pretty weak form of anti-counterfeiting, but in combination with some other techniques, perhaps it’s useful. Either way, it’s an amusing bit of trivia…

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Comments on “Do US Visa Documents Have A Typo?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Give them a break!

Oh Mike, give them a break. The design of the Visa documents were probably outsourced. Besides, you’re in on the ground floor, Mike. These documents will be valuable by Chinese Collectors in 50 years when the US ceases to exist as a nation. Lack of pride in gooder spellings and grammars increases collectability. If you need examples, look at the what error notes are going for.

Beta (profile) says:

He invented everything.

Benjamin Franklin deliberately misspelled “Philadelphia” on some of the first American banknotes, specifically to trip up counterfeiters, and the sources I’ve read suggest that the idea was original with him (not too surprising for a genius, a printer and a rather irreverent man). But I’d be surprised if that trick would trip up anyone with the means to make microengravings at all.

jean/NOTCOT (user link) says:

anyone else have a border crossing/green card and microscope?

after discovering adames while playing with the microscope, i’m more curious what is on the others, or newer versions… let’s figure out if this is a consistent typo? or if someone else’s name is a typo on others? 🙂

we’re all speculating about this, but there must be SO many more out there we can look at!

Terry Hart (profile) says:

According to this article, Greek passports do the same thing.

“To the naked eye, the holograms will look like simple lines, but they are actually words and phrases written in tiny letters which, Samaras explains, are an additional security feature because they may contain anagrams or deliberate spelling mistakes known to the authorities but not to forgers.”

Fente says:

Different Typos

It’s possible different serial number sequences have different typos – though it doesn’t make much sense why a typo ought be used when a different picture or other graphic detail coud be less obviously changed to ensure not only would a counterfitter have to copy imagery they’d have to know secret algorithms to match images to data.

Much like currency matches secret hashes of numbers to details like dates of issue.

David (profile) says:

It's deliberate

This is a standard anti-counterfeiting trick. Example: If you still have an old-style Visa credit card, take a look at the repeated word VISA in the micro-printing around the large Visa logo. There are two or three places where it’s spelled VAIS (as I recall, there’s one about three or four from the left in the third row). This was deliberate – I used to work for Visa, and there are other secrets about card design that I’m not going to divulge – the only reason I mention this one is because that design is now defunct. But, believe me, this is a routine form of fighting counterfeits.

Moe says:

USA Visa Typo

It’s not a typo. I worked for the Feds for many years. We could detect if a Social Security card was fraudulent if the columns on the card exactly met at the top. Real cards had a gap on the top right. The same with alien resident cards; the word “immigration” on the back of the card had several “i’s” missing the dot on top. If a card had all the i’s dotted, it was a fraud.

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