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How does a fake ID scanner app work?

VeriScan fake ID scanner app

Fake IDs are popular with minors looking to purchase alcohol and cannabis, or enter age restricted venues. They are also a popular tool for fraudsters.

Fake IDs can be ordered cheaply online, and many fake IDs look and feel completely legitimate. Fake ID manufacturers even advertise that the fakes they sell are “scannable.” The only way to reliably flag fake IDs is to use a fake ID scanner app – sophisticated, AI-powered software that performs checks to determine if an ID is real. Below, we’ll go through some of the key ways that app-based fake ID detection tools look for fakes.

Barcode analysis

2D barcode on the back of an ID

When an ID is scanned, what’s really happening is that the software is reading the 2D barcode (also known as a PDF417) on the back of the ID. The barcode contains all the information on the front of the ID (name, first name, date of birth) and can be decoded by barcode-reading software.

Quality fake ID scanner apps and software don’t just read the barcode and determine the customer’s age. They perform algorithmic checks on the ID’s barcode, looking at a variety of things:

  • Data format (does the way the data is structured match the known jurisdictional format?)
  • Data order
  • Barcode size
  • Barcode placement
  • More

Because app-based fake ID detectors do not have the ability to perform ID authentication, and typically are not comparing the front and back of the ID, best-in-class 2D barcode security is absolutely essential for any app. The best fake ID scanner apps should be able to catch between 50-60% of fake IDs, just from 2D barcode analysis alone.

DMV checks

US map of states with availability of DMV data verification

The other method that app-based fake ID detection tools can use to look for fakes is to make a call to an issuing authority. In most cases, this is the DMV (or AAMVA). When the ID is scanned, the app sends the first name, last name, and date of birth to the issuing jurisdiction. The issuing jurisdiction looks to see if that individual has a valid credential and sends back a “yes” or “no” response.

DMV checks have a few downsides:

  • They have a hard cost. AAMVA charges a flat fee per DMV query, so every time you check against these databases you pay a fee.
  • You need an internet connection to make an API call
  • DMV checks don’t deal well with even slight differences in name. So if someone has changed their name, or has a different name printed on their ID, a DMV check may come back with a “no” response even if the ID is legitimate.

Can a fake ID scanner app catch 100% of fake IDs?

No application or software is capable of catching every single fake ID. Some fake IDs are just too realistic or sophisticated. And some fake IDs are a product of synthetic identity fraud and contain “real” data, so even a DMV check will not catch them. ID authentication, using ultraviolet and infrared light and AI-powered software is the best way to catch the highest percentage of fakes. However, quality app-based scanners should catch a high percentage of fakes, and usage of an ID scanner is a great deterrent for fraudster and underage individuals.

Want to compare fake ID scanner apps?

We test all publicly available fake ID apps several times a year to see who performs the best and catches the most fake IDs. You can read the results of our most recent test here. Spoiler alert: VeriScan outperforms them all.