askST: How do you safely dispose of expired Singapore passports?

SINGAPORE - Reader Chow Mun Zing wanted to know if there is a secure way of disposing of expired Singapore passports.

He said that at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the ICA officer will punch holes on the cover of the old passport and return it to the applicant after a new passport is issued. This invalidates the old passport. But the old passport has the applicant's photo and other personal information.

He asked: "Is there an organisation which can destroy invalidated passports securely?"

Reporter Seow Bei Yi answered.

ICA says that as the Singapore passport is an important document, it should be disposed of carefully.

A good way to dispose of an expired or invalidated passport is by shredding it.

This will ensure that the passport does not fall into the wrong hands, which may lead to abuse.

 

The disposal can be done on your own, or through an information security company such as Shred-it.

 

Besides providing shredding services for other companies, Shred-it caters to private individuals who wish to dispose of their confidential documents by driving to the clients' premises with a mobile shredder.

There is a minimum charge for a one-time service, and the cost is about $100.

If you take the documents to Shred-it's offices, it can cost about $80.

After the process, the individual will receive a certifcate of destruction which they can keep as a record.

When asked, an ICA spokesman said that in disposing biometric passports, the electronic chip should be destroyed by using a hole puncher to punch a hole through it, before shredding the passport.

Singapore introduced biometric passports in 2006.

Part of a global effort to make travel documents tougher to forge, such passports contain a tiny computer chip that identifies the holder through unique physical characteristics - known as biometric identifiers - such as facial features and fingerprints.

The data is encoded onto the chip when an applicant picks up his or her passport.

Among the biometric passport's security features are watermarks, images that show up under ultraviolet light, and microtext - or words printed in a font so tiny that they appear as a straight line to the naked eye.

With passports becoming harder to forge, instead of taking the extra effort to manufacture whole fakes, illegal travellers and syndicates are known to have resorted to methods such as impersonation.

This means the passport is original and unaltered and instead, the traveller tries to look like the person in the photograph.

With criminal and terrorist elements being known to use photo-substituted or forged passports to facilitate their movement across borders, ICA said that there is a need to safeguard the security and integrity of the Singapore passport.