Sex: Male, height: 6-0, eyes: Brown, hair: Brown, birthdate: 03-22-1998.
Sex: Male, height: 6-0, eyes: Brown, hair: Brown, birthdate: 03-22-1994.
Two separate driver’s licenses, issued from two separate states, each with the name and picture of one person—E.B.
E.B. isn’t Jason Borne. He’s not a secret agent or a hardened criminal hiding his identity from people who mean him harm. He’s in high school. He plays football and lacrosse. He’s waiting to hear whether he’s been accepted to colleges like Clemson and University of Florida. So what’s he doing with a near perfect falsification of a government document?
He uses it to buy alcohol. As states develop more advanced security to prevent ID fraud and more severe punishments for buying and selling alcohol to minors, underage drinkers develop more sophisticated and risky means of buying alcohol without getting caught.
Cards The On And Police Sia Citizencard E.B. got his fake ID the summer before his senior year of high school. He and a small group of friends placed an order online to a company based in China. They wired $100 per fake ID through Western Union to an account specified by the website. A few weeks later their fake IDs came in the mail, and they suddenly had the power to buy their own alcohol.
The fake IDs are effective. “I haven’t had any problems with buying alcohol or getting into bars,” says E.B. “Only one of my friends was turned down at a bar. He used a Mississippi fake at a bar at Old Miss. The bouncer took it snapped it in half and gave it back to him.”
Over time, E.B. has become more comfortable using his fake ID in a variety of venues. “The first couple of times I used it I was nervous, and if I use it at place I haven’t used it before, I’m nervous,” says E.B. “But if it works once you don’t have anything to worry about.”
E.B. isn’t unique. According to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, about 66 percent of underage college students sampled used fake IDs.
There are a variety of resources devoted to instructing underage drinkers about how to get their hands on fake IDs. People can shop around on websites like idgod.ph, fakeyourdrank.com, idbook.ph, and many more. There are entire forums, like r/fakeid on Reddit, that review websites and point potential customers to the most reliable, cheapest, or highest quality fake IDs.
“They’re not hard to get. They are becoming really cheap. A group of people I know just put in an order at idgod.ph, and they were only $35 or $40,” says C.O., an underage college student who bought fake IDs with a group of his friends.
Though neither C.O. nor E.B. has run into problems using the fake IDs, there can be serious legal and financial consequences if an underage drinker is caught. In North Carolina, most underage drinkers caught by police are charged under G.S. 18B-302, minor in possession of alcohol, according to a blog by the UNC School of Government.
However, G.S. 18B-302(e) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to buy alcohol with a fraudulent ID. This can result in community service hours, fines, a one-year revocation of driver’s license, and even time in jail.
“There are literally hundreds of fake ID cases every year,” says Omar Qureshi, Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) special agent in charge for the district of Harrisburg, North Carolina. “It has been steadily increasing after the past year because of the internet.”
On Cards Citizencard Police Sia And The C.C. is a student at UNC Chapel Hill who police caught using a fake ID on Franklin Street. “The reason I was caught is that I was just way too drunk in public. The police stopped me and searched me. They found my fake and took it,” he says. “It was very expensive. I hired a lawyer. I got a citation for having a fake ID. I had 100 hours of community service. But I was told it would affect my life more than it has. I got a job at a bank, and I volunteer with the public school system. They both did background checks, but they didn’t care.”
Though being caught using a fake ID might not always result in life-altering consequences, selling fake IDs does. “If I had been caught selling fake IDs I would still be in jail,” says R.H., a student who sold fake IDs during his sophomore year of high school. “I would have had multiple felonies for every ID they found that they could have connected to me.”
When the ALE finds “ID Labs,” officers try to purchase a fake ID from the seller. Punitive measures taken against a person charged with selling fake IDs vary, because they often take plea deals, says Qureshi.
Despite the consequences, R.H. started making his own fake IDs after a bad experience buying his first fake ID online. “I started making them, because I had spent $100 on a fake ID order to one of those sketchy Chinese websites. While they were in the process of making and shipping my ID, the guy’s business got shut down. I was pretty pissed because I was out $100, and I still didn’t have a fake. So I decided I was smart enough to figure this out myself. So I did it, and it was really way too easy,” says R.H.
He bought blank PVC cards, Teslin paper and security ID holograms, stickers sold to companies making ID badges, off of Amazon. He used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to format a new image and information onto a driver’s license template. Then, he printed it out onto the Teflin paper and stuck it to the PVC card. Last, he placed the security ID hologram over the front of the card. “It was just so simple. I did all this in my room in high school,” he says.
R.H. didn’t use his IDs just to buy alcohol at gas stations, he was able to get past bouncers who spend their nights looking for fake IDs as well. “I had gotten into clubs, I had gotten into bars, I had gotten into all kinds of places with these IDs, and I was making lots of money,” he says.
R.H. sold between 20 and 30 fake IDs for $100 a piece, he says. Despite his success making IDs, R.H. quit making them shortly after he started because of an incident he had while trying to buy alcohol using one of his IDs.
A woman working in R.H.’s town had developed a reputation for being particularly strict about fake ID use. He had been warned to avoid her store, but he went to her anyway to prove how real his fake IDs looked.
But she didn’t fall for it. She took his ID, but R.H. stayed and argued to get it back. He ran when she called the police. A few hours later, he was surprised to see the police standing at his front door. The woman had recorded his license plate, and they found his house. R.H. told them he had gotten the ID from someone at the local university, and they left him alone. “At that point, I got completely out of the game because that freaked me out,” he says.
Though R.H. didn’t stay in “the game” for long, there’s a lot of money to be made for those willing to assume the risk. A support representative, calling himself Forrest Gump, from the website FakeYourDrank estimates it has sent out over 10,000 orders and has a profit margin of $100,000 to $120,000.
Despite the cost of fake IDs, they aren’t perfect. The most effective way to test whether an ID is real is through the bend test. To execute the bend test, bouncers take the ID and bend it in half. If the ID is fake the stickers on the front of the ID bubble up off the plastic. Real IDs are printed directly onto the plastic surface of the PVC card, so the surface is unchanged, says R.H.
Fake IDs can cause problems when they’re not spotted as well. “If you have a fake ID in your pocket and something happens to you medically, it can really screw things up,” said Qureshi. “Officers will go to the address on your fake ID to inform your family or whoever of what’s happened to you. Then they realize they don’t know who you are or who to contact.”
Overall, Qureshi says fake IDs aren’t worth the risk. “It’s not worth the convenience. If you are working to do something with your life, it’s something that will go on your permanent record and really mess you up.”