Fake IDs draw strict penalties
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 22:05
Just by opening up their wallets, many otherwise law-abiding college students can incriminate themselves, commiting a serious felony, if their identification, whether it be a driver's license or state ID, is counterfeit.According to Massachusetts law, using a fake ID to purchase alcohol is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or up to three months imprisonment. College students however, say that fake IDs are common and both easy to obtain and to use.
A minor looking to purchase a fake ID has many options. For example, Internet sites promise quality fake IDs or even sell make-your-own kits, with small disclaimers mentioning that they are not licensed to produce real identification. Even as states attempt to design new ways to prevent people from using fake IDs, with devices such as holograms or special vertical driver's licenses for minors, the number of minors in possession of fake IDs is on the rise.
A variety of types of identification are commonly falsified - state identifications and driver's licenses being in the majority. Some IDs are easier to fake than others, making them particularly popular among minors. A Brandeis junior, who owned both a fake state ID and a real driver's license belonging to another person, said that Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey are easy to counterfeit.
Like two other Brandeis students interviewed, the ID was for a state other than Massachusetts, in hopes that a Bostonian inspector won't be able to tell an out-of-state fake from a real ID. The students interviewed purchased their IDs in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Greenwich. It was accomplished through distant connections, such as a friend of a friend, although according to one girl it is not uncommon in some areas to actually be approached by someone selling fake IDs.
A fake ID may cost anywhere from 40 to 130 dollars, depending on how convincing the buyer wants the ID to be and how much money the sellers think they can get. A Brandeis sophomore possessing a fake driver's license said the drinking age is "absurd," considering that minors can be executed.
Manager of Gordon's Liquor Store in Waltham Bill Kane, said he regards drinking to be "part of growing up in America", but has concerns about underage drinking. The years from 18 to 20 are "not the most mature years of your life," Kane said despite his personal views he strictly enforces the underage drinking laws at Gordon's. Moreover, as part of the Waltham community, Kane feels Gordon's has a responsibility to actively and diligently check identification.
Those Brandeis students interviewed said they tend to use fake IDs for gaining entry to bars and clubs restricted to people who are 21 years and older. Buying alcohol for later consumption was lower on the list, since most students have friends over 21 who will buy the alcohol for them - which is just as illegal.
Gordon's Liquor, Brandeis' most convenient liquor store, avidly scans all IDs of customers who look under 30. Additionally, Kane said Gordon's has permission to call the Brandeis police and verify the age of the person on the ID. He said people showing out of state licenses are required to provide their Brandeis ID for comparison. Like many liquor stores in Massachusetts,
Kane said Gordon's has a device that scans the magnetic strip on the back of IDs. The scanner relays to the clerk information from the department of motor vehicles for the given state. If the information on the front of the ID doesn't correspond to the information from the strip, the ID will be rejected and confiscated. Kane said he is proud of Gordon's reputation for strict ID inspection.
Scanners, or electronic age verification devices are expensive, but enough businesses are employing them to warrant some debate, Kane said. There have been concerns over invasion of privacy and the storage of personal information from IDs on computers. He said he was careful to point out that their scanner does not store information and is not connected to a computer. The scanners are used primarily for determining a potential buyer's age, he said.
Professor Brad Krevor (HS) conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of these devices in the real world. The findings of the study (conducted in Florida and Iowa) indicated that stores selling alcohol and tobacco did not increase their rate of age verification when provided with a scanner. Clerks did not appear to take advantage of the convenience of the scanner or the ease of blaming a rejected ID on a machine.
Currently, no standardization of IDs exists between the states, complicating the scanning process. And, even a scanner can't help if the ID is real but belongs to another individual, in which case the photograph is the only telling piece of information, Kane said.
Many factors besides the look of authenticity go into whether or not a fake ID is accepted. The establishment and its location, the attitude of the proprietor, and appearance of the minor all factor into a fake ID's success. Boston's Blue Cat Caf, puts its doormen through a training period during which they learn how to detect fake IDs. Manager Ryan Wunderlick said they do not have a scanner, because they do not expect to run into underage drinkers, as they attract a 24 to 35 age range.
Bars and clubs around colleges, one junior said, tend to be not as strict in the enforcement of underage drinking laws. She mentioned an establishment in Providence with security cameras. Students would hold baseball cards, or other cards shaped like IDs, up to the bouncer for appearance's sake and the bouncer would let them in. Krevor pointed out that sometimes the minor's own authentic ID will work, because the seller assumes he or she would not be presented with a real underage card.
More responsible bars and clubs without scanners inspect the IDs closely. "They'll ask you your sign or some other question," one student said, describing an incident where the server tried to trick her into giving information different from that on the ID. Another student said bars in the Boston area tend to reject state ID cards, preferring driver's licenses, which are scrutinized for their authenticity rather than the photo.
The consequences for bars and liquor stores selling to minors are not to be taken lightly, Kane said. "We pay heavily", he says, listing heavy fines, closure for three days, and delay of employee paychecks as some of the reasons Gordon's is so careful about fake IDs. He said students caught with fake IDs also pay, usually with fines, revoking of the driver's license, a note on the permanent record and a hike in car insurance rates.
None of the Brandeis students interviewed had been caught with their fake IDs and did not seem to think the possibility likely. They said they consider fake IDs worth the risk, so long as one knows how and where to use them.