The national identity card is likely to be counterfeited, police have warned.
As there are unlikely to be enough card readers available to verify the authenticity of cards, more fake cards are likely to slip through the net, according to detective chief superintendent Nigel Mawer of the Metropolitan Police.
"As with any form of identification, it's likely that the ID card scheme would be targeted by people creating false IDs," said Mawer, who heads the economic and specialist crime directorate at the Met. "It's important that people invest in the equipment to enable them to tell if an ID card is genuine, to get the full benefit from an anti-crime perspective."
The cards are not widely distributed at the moment, and the Met has yet to see any fakes, detective chief inspector Nick Downing said. "But if the cards do come in across the UK, we will see them being counterfeited," he added.
The card is being promoted by the government for uses including border admittance and proof of age. While Identity and Passport officials would be trained to spot fake travel documents, people examining cards in other situations, such as establishments serving alcohol, would not have a similar level of training.
The Conservative Party has said that if it wins the next election, which will be held by June 2010, it will scrap the National Identity Scheme.
The government has begun introducing the cards in the north-west of England, and to 16- to 24-year-old Londoners. On Wednesday, a Conservative spokesperson said people should not sign up for the £30 cards, as the cards that have been issued will be invalidated under a Conservative government.
"We've been very clear — we are scrapping the system," the spokesperson said. "People shouldn't be signing up for the cards, because should we get in, the cards will be invalid."
The Home Office declined to comment on the dearth of ID card readers in the UK. However, a Home Office spokesperson said the government department was "confident that the identity card is one of the most secure of its kind, fully meeting rigorous international standards".
"We are satisfied the personal data on the chip cannot be changed or modified, and there is no evidence this has happened," the spokesperson said. "The identity card includes a number of design and security features that are extremely difficult to replicate."
The security surrounding the cards issued to foreign nationals was cracked in 2009 by security researcher Adam Laurie.