In 1990 a Pakistani named Mir Aimal Kansi used an alternative transliteration of his Urdu family name, Kasi, to obtain a visa at the American consulate in Karachi. He entered America, overstayed his one-month visa and then went to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and obtained a new Pakistani passport, this time with the ‘n’ reinserted in his surname.

Using this new identity, he obtained working papers and a driving licence, bought a gun and went on to shoot five CIA employees, killing two, outside the agency’s headquarters. Kansi spent four years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list before being captured, and was executed in 2002.
Lizette Sander, Data Quality Product Manager of Bateleur Software, says this case shows how the mundane process of transliterating names from one language to another can be exploited by criminals.
“These ambiguities cause huge problems for intelligence analysts trying to monitor and prevent terrorist activity,” Sander says. “The same applies to organisations trying to identify fraudsters or criminals, such as financial institutions and any organisation which needs to protect its information.”
The good news is that recently-developed name-matching programs can take into account the thousands of possible transliterations of a particular name as they scan through watch-lists and databases looking for a match.
This technology, which is often required by central banks and monetary authorities, is being adopted on a broad scale by the financial services industry, where it is used to compile watch-lists that are sent to banks worldwide. Credit card companies use the software to spot people applying for new cards under modified names.
Name-matching software is also becoming more sophisticated and performing additional functions. The name-matching software from Identity Systems, represented in South Africa by Bateleur Software, is used by more than 200 government agencies around the world. As well as flagging names on watch-lists, it sifts historical records to reveal hidden relationships.
“The crux of the matter is data quality,” Sander says. “In order to comply with crucial legislative requirements such as those of South Africa’s anti-money laundering bill, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), organisations need to have confidence in their information. FICA requires that financial institutions have procedures for verifying the identity of their customers beyond any doubt.”
Bateleur Software has broadened its identity resolution offering to include the data quality space with DataTrawler, a solution from Datactics. A UK-based company, Datactics focuses on fraud detection, law enforcement, financial governance and list management.
“In addition to our search-and-match capability, we are now able to provide clients with both pre- and post-search-and-match manipulation. The result is combined information from heterogeneous systems to deliver a trusted record,” Sander says.
“More and more organisations now recognise that data is an asset which needs to be shared by and within the enterprise. If the data is not of good quality, the entire organisation is compromised.”