back to article Disguised impostor clears international flight

Canadian authorities are investigating an Asian man in his early 20's who disguised himself as an “elderly caucasian male” and was en route from Hong Kong to Vancouver before being discovered as an impostor. “The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to …


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  1. Graham Marsden


    ... so much for Security Theatre!

  2. Daniel B.

    Real-Life Total Recall?

    Looks like something out of Total Recall to me.

    - How long are you going to stay in Canada?


    1. M Gale

      Get Ready For A Surprise!

      I suppose it could have been worse...

  3. Shingo Tamai
    Thumb Down

    Next time...

    ...go for "The player" mask, it comes with matching gloves.

    Look for SPFX masks and look for yourself.

  4. Cunningly Linguistic
    Thumb Up

    Retro title

    Bugger me, it's Andy Capp.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    His plan seems to have been perfect

    except for the bit where he removed the mask

  6. kain preacher

    Death of flying

    Forget the perv-o-tron. In order to fly you will know need to show up 72 hours in advance. What will happen is this. You show up to the air airport, the will you and make you takes shower. A full body cavity search done with an endoscope. After that the will give you nice orange jump suit and show you to a nice room were you will be observed for at least 48 hours. For your safety they will put you in belly chains and shackle you to the other passengers. For your comfort they will put a clothe hood over you while you fly. When you get to your destination they will repeat the process.

    1. M Gale

      Welcome to RendAir!

      See title.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Instead of all that, they're just going to learn from the geologists and take a "core sample" of travellers to make sure they're the "same person all the way though".


    3. Alan Firminger

      Complete the picture

      What will happen to deportees ?

  7. kain preacher

    Racial profiling

    So much for racial profiling.

  8. Ef'd

    B for attention to detail

    F for lack of commitment

    1. Anton Ivanov

      Not quite

      He got though Hong Kong airport because the checkout was most likely manned by asians. So any mismatches between mask and fake identity and between speech and expected accent was overlooked. The Vancouver border control however was going to be manned by caucasian whites so probably _ANOTHER_ fake identity, this time asian looked like the right choice there for whoever organised it. What they have missed however is that:

      1. Airlines actively use yield management and dynamic pricing to fill up flights to the hilt. The chance of changing on the flight and finding an alternative empty place to sit so you are unnoticed is virtually zero.

      2. The passenger lists from all flights are submitted to border control, usually in advance. A mismatch and a passenger showing up who has not been listed on an incoming flight is likely to cause an automatic "would you please come to that room over there sir".

      So it is F for attention to detail and B for effort.

      In any case, a fake old man identity costs up to 10000 for a good one, a mask of sufficient quality is a 1000 or so. Add to that T&S and you are looking at 15000 dollars. If there is a fake Asian identity to add we are looking at 20000+ in total.

      The NO WAY for an "honest cittisen" of any of the countries which supply assylum seekers to have that sorts of money. They have to be a non-political criminal - either a current one running from law or a "future one" who has agreed in advance to be a criminal and pay the traffic racket gang from their earnings in their new life. It never stops to amase me why we are admitting them at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Assumptions, assumptions

        First, in most of Asia everything is cheaper. That's where they make the cheap crap, remember?

        Second, they're not mentioning what identity papers he was traveling with. Either false ones, which could easily have been nicked or "loaned" by the guy whose name was on the passengers list, and then all you need to do is match the mask to the photo, or perhaps again someone who managed to board without a pass.

        Third, with your logic, "honest citizens" wouldn't be able to afford cars or houses. What you forget is that someone desperate will put everything and perhaps a bit more toward that one goal. So yes, USD 20k would be doable for quite a few more people than you're insinuating. Besides, the flight originated in Hong Kong. They earn a pretty penny there.

        Even so I think the total cost would be on the order of mask and boarding pass, maybe a couple thousand USD if that. My biggest question is "why did he do it?", but they're not telling that.

        1. Anton Ivanov

          Yeah, right

          Walk out onto a street and ask the honest cittisen which has 20K in cash to pay for anything to come forward. I would like to see that honest cittisens.

          Yes, we pay much more for cars, houses, etc but we pay that on credit. For stuff like the mask in question or fake identity papers anywhere around the world you PAY CASH or it is the kind of credit you 'd rather never take. The credit that costs an arm and a leg to pay back. Literally. Though usually it is a kidney.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I admire your reasoning skills, sir.

            Though mostly for their absence.

            What citizen, honest or not, would admit in public to being a prime mugging target? But even besides that, plenty of people do keep cash around, or do have a nice little sum tucked away in a savings account. Failing that, if you plan on absconding the country anyway, no reason not to take a nice big loan under the pretext of starting some business, preferrably one that is well-known for dealing heavily in cash. This is even more doable if you have a reasonable credit rating, especially one that isn't criminally blotted already.

            And they can get that in cash if they have to, too. If not in one go, then by spacing withdrawals. This sort of thing takes preparation any way you look at it, so it's not unreasonable to assume planned preparation for getting the money too. Why you choose to ignore that is a bit beyond me.

            And, of course, with luck this guy didn't need USD20k but could perhaps make do with one tenth of that. That's low enough that you can work for it in an entry-level job and make it within months if not weeks. I'm afraid there's little left of your attempts to paint the guy a criminal. Whether he is or not is something else entirely. But what is clear is that your insinuations are more petty prejudice than believable or well-reasoned, I'm afraid.

      2. Allan George Dyer

        He only transited in HK

        Apparently, he started in Fujian. So, he only had the airside guards to fool, as he passed in the crowd.

      3. dssf

        A high-priced rent-boy probably would not go through that much trouble, either.

        But, if he's a gangster, he's so innocent-looking. If he's some sort of entertainment or banking scammer, his looks might help him get away with things. If he's wealthy and bored, he's gonna be incarcerated and "bored", if luck turns against him. Either the mask got too hot on the plane, or he saw a hottie and had to unmask for an exchange of contact info. hehehehe

  9. Gray

    Removable body parts ...

    Two burly TSA guards will tug and pull on various passenger body parts during the screening process. Any parts they are able to pull loose or peel off will go in the tray with loose pocket items, and will be returned to the passenger as they exit the screening area.

    1. Anton Ivanov

      No need - they just go an excuse for "everyone through the scanner"

      The silicone and latex used in such masks has residual fluorescence in UV. So frequent travellers now will be recognised by their characteristic tan.

      This is joking of course. The existing IR scanners which by the way Hong Kong already has because of SARS are perfectly adequate for the task. Making such a mask look realistic in IR is nearly impossible. The natural "hot" and "cold" zones which each face has will be misplaced and smudged into a more "even" picture.

      Unfortunately, while perfectly adequate IR and UV is least likely to be used here.

      The securocrats just got their reason to run everyone through the full body scanner. Silicone or latex may look like human flesh in vis. It will show up immediately in microwave/X-ray.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Stand a bit closer....

    ..yes I know it's really hot, but stand a little closer.

    The new Heat-O-Tron 3000 anti-mask detector..

  11. Grivas Bo Diddly Harm

    Holy costume party, Batman!

    I think the Robin-style eye mask was a bit of a giveaway once he'd removed his disguise, too.

    Still, good try.

  12. JaitcH

    Air Canada flights usually make you age

    Air Canada, arguably Canada's worst carrier, should make this a feature of their Asian advertising to fill all those empty seats. I wonder why their cabin crew look so old, though?

    Unfortunately I fly the carrier with the best service, Eva Air, who don't offer this age shedding service. (But they have more space between seats in economy.)

  13. Andus McCoatover


    Bloody hell - looks like a younger version of me!!!

    I want one of those masks. Then, I don't have to turn the lights off on a Friday night...(well, first Friday of the month..)

  14. Maty


    once he took of his old Caucasian mask, he was still wearing his young Asian mask, underneath that is a middle-aged female Negro, and under that is a cute Russian doll ...

    1. Andus McCoatover

      Big fleas..

      Have little fleas

      On their backs to bite 'em

      Little fleas have littler fleas

      And so ad infinitum.

  15. JDX Gold badge

    Two burly TSA guards will tug and pull on various passenger body parts during the screening process

    I'm some people would pay for such an experience.

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Well... we're all paying for it!

      Do you think those security hooligans work for nothing? Or are paid by government?

      No, it's the landing taxes hike you pay for, each flight, to be assaulted by their ignorance and bad temper.

      True anecdote, round midnight at a changeover: "Please be careful with this, it's a marriage present" "That one?" *CRASH* from deliberate dropping... and that's the end of it. Impossible to pursue, little time to make it, no name to refer to, nothing.

  16. Tom 35

    Beat the system

    They think he went through check in as himself then put on the mask and swapped boarding passes with an accomplice before boarding, (the pass was in the name of a 55 year old American, he could not pass as 55). They should have required photo ID to board, but didn't.

    Now the security types here are saying that nothing should have been released about this (as they don't like all the people laughing at them I expect).

  17. Andus McCoatover

    The pass was in the name of a 55 year old American

    Whaddya mean, couldn't pass as 55? I've seen 45-year-old yanks look better!

    I'm 54, and look more like the young bloke than the masked devil!

    It's that Florida sun that does it...(or two terms of the Bush Administration)

  18. Eddy Ito

    Much ado about nothing

    Perhaps I'm daft and just can't find it. Can anyone please quote me the statement which declares that this person actually went through security in Hong Kong while in disguise? I see statements that he got on the plane in disguise but as of last year there isn't an ID check at the boarding gate in HK. I can also see where they describe the security setup in HK but I still can't find where it states he actually went through security in costume and didn't put it on in one of the many restrooms in the terminal. You can see in the map of the HK airport, pdf linked below, that security is done at the end of the terminal. Air Canada flies out of Terminal 1

    That said, without such a quote it sounds like CNN trying to bump ratings like the network showing a detailed self breast exam a few days ago.

  19. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    No big deal

    You can pull that "switch boarding pass" trick every day of the week in the US on domestic flights - it's a little harder on internationals flights but not much.

    1. Andus McCoatover


      When I went to US regularly, for some reason my boarding pass was often stamped "SSSS" meaning extra security checks. P.I.T.A.

      I had 4. Dallas-NY, NY-Frankfurt. Frankfurt-Helsinki, Helsinki-Oulu.

      Only the top one had SSSS on it.

      I just swapped the order and the McJobs in security didn't notice.

      When I showed the last pass in NY, the bloke wished me a good Ho'oulu, Hawaii?!?! Why he misread that Helsinki != NY beats me...

  20. dssf

    One technique to try:

    Unmasked by a thousand cuts.

    Another: brief, but INTENSLY hot spot-torch... Loudly-popping balloons can be used to test reflexes, or lack of composure to intense noise. Anyone wearing a mask and feigning age that wide might be discovered by the lack of cloudiness in the eyes.

  21. ps2os2

    Did they also arrest....

    Did they also arrest all the women on the flight who do the same thing all the time?

    Sounds like sex discrimination!

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