Last updated on January 29th, 2024 at 01:19 pm
Underage individuals are becoming more savvy to the efforts of bars, nightclubs, and dispensaries to detect their fake identification.
They are now buying from foreign suppliers who guarantee IDs that scan at the door of a nightclub. Of 14,000 fake IDs seized in 2020, 97% of those were shipped from either China or Hong Kong. Sophisticated fake IDs represent a risk to businesses who may unknowingly serve minors, even with stringent manual age verification processes in place.
In this report, we’ll explore the effect of fake ID use on both the minors who are gaining access to age restricted products, as well as the risks to businesses who lack adequate protections to limit their exposure to individuals using fake IDs. We’ll also dive into never-before-seen data that quantifies the epidemic of fake ID usage.
How common are fake IDs?
Use of fake IDs has increased significantly over the past 30 years.
The National Library of Medicine performed a study of 1,454 underage alcohol consumers. Of this cross-section:
● 583 or 40.1% own or have owned a fake ID. 560 (38.5%) have used a fake ID at a bar.
● 460 (27.8%) have used the ID to purchase alcohol at a store.
Ownership of fake IDs peaked during students’ third year of college, with 39% of third-year students owning false credentials of some kind. And usage spikes heavily as men and women approach 21%. Only 7% of high schoolers reported owning a fake ID, while 69% of college students said they owned or used a fake.
Fake ID ownership & usage by gender
Fake ID ownership amongst college students skews slightly higher, with 40% of female college sophomores and 36% of male college sophomores saying they own a fake. However, inside our own software, around 65% of the fake IDs we detect are male. This may speak to women purchasing higher quality fakes, or male fake ID owners just being more confident and using their fake even in scenarios where they know it might be scanned. Overall, male fake IDs were 13% more likely to be confiscated.
Fake ID ownership & usage by gender
Men and women use their fake IDs slightly differently. Both women and men are most likely to use them to gain entrance to a bar or nightclub. But men were more likely to use their fake to buy beer, while women were more likely to purchase wine, liquor, and tobacco. Men were also more likely to use their fake ID to gain entry to a casino.
Where are fake IDs most common?
Cities with large college populations, such as Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, are often seen as having higher rates of fake ID use due to the high demand for alcohol among college students. Therefore, the importance of catching fake IDs is significant, especially in cities that house major colleges.
Top 5 colleges with high interest in fake IDs according to IDScan.net search data:
- Grinnell College
- University of Wisconsin
- Iowa State University
- University of Southern California
- Boston University
Greek life & fake IDs
A recent study found that students participating in Greek life were more likely to own fake IDs compared to those uninvolved.
Over 50% of Greek men and women owned fake IDs, while less than 20% of non-Greek students owned fake IDs. In 2019, a sorority at the University of Central Florida was suspended for the trading of IDs in exchange for money.
Many hypothesize that because Greek life is heavily focused on social capital and helping out one’s “sisters” or “brothers,” students may feel compelled to own or lend fake IDs to achieve a higher level of social status within their fraternity or sorority.
Where are fake IDs being used?
In an anonymized review of IDScan.net customers, over a 1-month period, 0.52% of IDs were flagged as fake. Cannabis dispensaries were the most common location where fake IDs were flagged, with nearly 5% of IDs being identified as suspicious at some busy dispensaries.
Anatomy of a fake ID
Other than their age, which fields on a fake ID are least likely to match reality?
Front / back crossmatch is one of the methods our VeriScan software detects fake IDs. This compares the data stored in the ID’s barcode to the data on the front of the ID. Roughly 36% of the time, the fake ID’s state did not match the state in the barcode (ex. the front of the ID said Illinois, but the barcode was for Delaware). Height and weight were also a mismatch nearly 1/3 of the time. Eye color was a mismatch in roughly 1/5 fake IDs.
Which states are most often faked?
The top 5 most faked state IDs:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
The states with the least faked state IDs:
- South Dakota
The human consequences of fake IDs
While we all can relate to the teenage desire to participate in adult activities, usage of fake IDs is correlated strongly with many negative outcomes.
● Binge drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths of individuals under 21 each year.
● Drivers under the age of 21 represent only about 10% of licensed drivers in the US but are responsible for 17% of fatal alcohol-involved crashes.
● Owning a fake ID increases the likelihood of heavy drinking.
● 56% of youths who reported borrowing or using a fake ID also reported weekly use of alcohol, in comparison to just 14% of those who reported not owning fraudulent identification.
The tragic impact of fake IDs
Catching fake IDs before the underage individual uses it can be life-saving.
On January 16, 2023 a Louisiana State University sophomore, who was 19-years-old, died after being hit by a car. Reports indicate that sophomore Madison Brooks was drinking at a bar near LSU called Reggie’s using a fake ID.
In September of 2022, a 17-year-old girl was charged in a Boulder car crash that killed two people. The teenager owned a fake ID and used it to purchase the alcohol from a Boulder liquor store called Willow Springs Wines & Spirits.
In early 2018, a 17-year-old teenager from Maryland named Navid Sepheri died from alcohol poisoning, drowning, and hypothermia. Navid left a high school party alone and wandered into a nearby stream where he drowned.
Police say they found a bottle of vodka and two identical fake Pennsylvania driver’s licenses on the teenager.
Sepheri was a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.
The business risk of serving underage patrons
Every state liquor and cannabis control board maintains the right to shut down bars that it believes are not doing their due diligence to keep minors out. Each minor who successfully enters your bar, nightclub, or dispensary using a fake ID represents a major business risk.
Notable bars shut down for serving underage patrons in 2022
● PandaEast | Amherst, MA
● Outlaws | Ames, IA
● Reggie’s | Baton Rouge, LA
● Stone Lounge | Cortland, NY
● Gravel Pit | Denver, CO
● Tiki Bob’s | Indianapolis, IN
● OC Store | Snow Hill, MD
● Twin Peaks | Kansas City, KS
● So Many Roads | Denver, CO
● City Bar | Madison, WI
● The Gingerbread Man | Carlisle, PA
ID scanning for affirmative defense
An affirmative defense is a “defense in which the defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability or civil liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.”
In the case of ID scanning, this means that in some states, bars who electronically scan IDs cannot be held liable for underage drinking, or resultant violence or crimes, that result from underage drinking at their establishment.
As an example, in October 2022, New York bar The Stone Lounge was the target of a police sting. The local police determined that 85% of the 92 patrons inside the crowded bar were actually under 21 and had entered the bar using fake credentials. However, because of the owner’s use of ID scanning technology, the bar, popular with SUNY Cortland students, remains open.
States with affirmative defense for ID scanning:
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Using ID scanning to protect your business
In addition to providing iron-clad affirmative defense in 11 states, ID scanning can help your venue root-out fake IDs at the entrance, greatly reducing overall business liability.
ID scanning is more effective than visual ID inspection, and takes mere seconds per ID.
● Instantly verifies age
● Verifies ID expiration
● Checks for anomalies in the 2D barcode
Not all ID scanning is created equally, so for maximum protection. you’ll want a scanner that uses AI-powered software and has been tested against a high-volume of fakes.
2023 fake ID trends
- 57% of Millennials got their fake ID between the ages of 18-20, showcasing the unique pressure placed on college students
- 95% of all ID fraud cases include borrowed IDs
- 69% of college students in Ohio admitted to either using or owning a fake ID
- 60% of forged fake IDs appear legitimate as well as having a barcode with matching information
- While 12.5% of college freshmen own a fake ID, that number grows to 32% by the end of their sophomore year
Fake IDs are more prevalent and more sophisticated than ever. Usage is growing, especially amongst college students. And age verification laws are only becoming more stringent with Nevada, Utah, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina among the latest states to crack down on age verification methods.
Bars, nightclubs, and dispensaries should implement some form of ID scanning technology to ensure they are protected from the consequences of a minor consuming alcohol or cannabis from their establishment.