A new system is online that will allow those in business to check electronically the validity of a person’s identity.
The system uses the data base of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones to display a photo of an individual if their fingerprint coincides with the information on file.
The system may prevent some cases of property theft by impersonators.
Notaries are being encouraged to use the system to verify the identity of those who appear before them to make real estate or other business transactions.
The system has been working since May, but it has not been publicized widely. The Tribunal is home to the Registro Civil where Costa Ricans go to obtain cédulas de identidad. At the time the identity document is requested, the Registro takes and files a fingerprint.
To use the system, notaries and other business firms have to sign up for a contract with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the state Internet service, and obtain a device to read fingerprints. Some banks already are using the system.
The U.S. Embassy here has used a similar system for years to obtain prints when foreigners seek visas to the United States.
The proponents for the system assume that notaries are honest. Those who are have an affirmative obligation to check the identities of those who appear before them.
However, a lot of property fraud is the product of crooked notaries who knowingly fake property transfer documents.
And some notaries are arguing about the cost of the system, which can be as much as a U.S. dollar for each verification plus the cost of equipment. They aired their complaints on a judicial blog.
Others say that such a system has been a long time in coming.
Currently, expats are not included in the system, although those who have legal residency already have provided the Direccion General de Migración y Extranjería their fingerprints.
When the fingerprint system gives an electronic alert that the fingerprint and the data stored by the Tribunal do not match, notaries and others in business have to revert to simply checking the cédula presented by the individual whose identity needs to be verified.
The Costa Rican property transfer system goes back to a time when many residents could not read or write. Consequently the procedure is for a seller to appear before a notary, a special kind of lawyer, who then prepares documents based on what the seller says. So there is wiggle room for a crooked notary to simply make up documents.
Notaries also are involved in vehicle transfers, among other transactions.