How Do Scannable Fake IDs Work?

How do scannable fake IDs work? Before we answer that question, it is important to understand how IDs store information. Arguably the most important feature is the PDF417 barcode. This strip contains a plethora of information, such as name, address, DOB, height, weight, etc., that identifies a person. The vast majority of ID scanning solutions and ID scanning hardware utilize the 2D barcode to verify age and identity. The 2D barcode is also used for parsing IDs into software such as CRMs or POS, since each field can be uniquely identified.

Most IDs also feature a 1D Barcode that contains the state code and ID number. 

Almost equally as important as the PDF417 barcode is all the information printed in the front of the ID card. In a perfect world, all of the information stored in the PDF417 and 1D barcode would match the information printed on the front of the card, but that is where fake IDs can stand out.

Front/Back Matching

When criminals that create fake IDs market their IDs, they obviously want to market them as “scannable fake IDs”, because without that function, they might as well be useless. But, it is much easier to print the information on the front of a fake ID than it is to forge a PDF417 and 1D barcode. For that reason, when these “creators” purchase fake IDs to forge for other people, they often buy real IDs that have already been encoded with information in the PDF417 and 1D barcodes. They simply reprint the information on the front of the card to match the, often underage, person buying the fake ID. So how can you tell if the information doesn’t match?

This is where ID Scanning technology comes into play. By using an ID Scanning/Parsing software, a scanner can read the information that has been encoded in the barcodes while simultaneously taking a picture of the front. By using OCR (Optical Character Recognition), the software compares the picture and characters on the front of the ID to the information encoded in the back, and if those bits of information don’t match up, the ID is almost always fake. Now, that is not to say that the software will catch fake IDs 100% of the time, because that is impossible, but with the right technology, your business can do its part to cut down on fake ID use while ensuring compliance.

Lighting Checks

In addition to the Barcode vs OCR comparison, another security measure that can be harder to forge is the addition of UV Ink. This security feature is specialized to hide state specific text and images on an ID that can only be seen in specific lighting. Cue infrared, ultraviolet, and white light scanning. A scanner like the E-Seek M500, in conjunction with our software, scans the ID at three different light wavelengths in order to check for the addition of these security features. If the scanner/software does not detect the UV Ink, the ID in question is likely a fake.

Holograms and Watermarks

Holograms and/or Watermarks can be one final test of an IDs legitimacy. This feature creates a 3D effect that can be seen on flat surfaces. To create this effect, the image is made using nanostructures that will refract light in a specific way, thus making the 2D image appear 3D. This feature is hard for criminals to forge because this technique can only be done using highly specialized lab equipment. That being said, it is possible to create a simple hologram, but again, this is where a hardware and software combination comes into play. The E-Seek M500 can use the UV light previously discussed and look at the hologram in detail. So much so, that when combined with our software, it can tell you if the hologram is the wrong one for the state in question.


If you’re interested in learning more about how our scanning software can help protect your business against fake ID use, be sure to contact one of our industry experts.