Fake IDs: easy to obtain, but what are the true cost if ID Theft occurs or if you are questioned as a terrorist
What is the true cost of a fake ID these days? Samantha K., a 19-year old college student, is still finding out. Samantha bought her first fake ID for $150 as a 10th grader at an all-girls private school. “Obviously very young,” she said recently, “but everyone was doing it.” Last year, a bouncer in the confiscated her second one (or was it her third?) and threatened to call the police. That threat, though, turned out to be fake, too: A second bouncer offered to get it back for her if she paid him $100.
All told, Samantha said, she has probably spent more on IDs than alcohol. She’s not really much of a drinker, she said; she just wants to be part of the crowd.
Part status symbol, part rite of passage, fake IDs have been integral to American adolescence since a national minimum drinking age of 21 was first imposed in 1984. But the days of chalking the birth date on your driver’s license are now gone, replaced by an expensive, high-stakes war of escalation between authorities and aspiring underage drinkers.
Today’s government-issued IDs are affixed with whiz-bang technologies like holograms and magnetic strips that make them increasingly costly to forge. And in a post-9/11 world, being arrested with a fake ID — or worse, trying to make and sell one — can land you in surprisingly hot water.
Throw in opportunistic bouncers who know how much you paid for that quality fake, and how much you will probably pay to get it back, and you have the makings of a very expensive night out. Even if you never do get that beer.
Yet the market for fake IDs among high school and college students has never been stronger, say teenagers and legal experts. “Almost every person I know from home and college has a fake ID,” said William, a college student who turned 21 in May. It’s considered “a victimless crime” among his friends, he said, not something that can get them in serious trouble.
Like many of his peers, including Samantha, William bought his phony driver’s license from IDChief, a Chinese website that disappeared in 2012 after four United States senators sent a letter to the country’s ambassador. The site, or one assuming its name, has now reappeared, with a note assuring customers that it is “located in a safe country.”
IDChief sells two copies of an ID for $150; order in bulk with friends, as William and Samantha did, and the price drops to $100. The danger, security experts say, is that nothing is stopping such sites from using your personal information for nefarious means.
“If these companies can use your information to make an ID for you, they can use it to make an ID for someone else,” said Nikki Junker, the media manager with the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit group that works to educate the public about the dangers of identity theft.
Customers don’t have to put their real information on a fake ID, but many do, in order to decrease the likelihood of being exposed. William used his actual birthday but changed the year; Samantha’s fake ID has her real address because “it’s easier to remember,” she said.
The alternative, trying to make your own ID, is even riskier. William Finley Trosclair and his college roommate were arrested in 2011 for selling high-quality fake IDs to students at the University of Georgia and other schools. Originally believing he would be charged with a misdemeanor, Mr. Trosclair, now 23 and living in Cleveland, ended up serving three months in prison and paying $6,500 in fines, to say nothing of legal fees.
“We were just trying to get our friends into bars,” he said in a telephone interview, but the local authorities “were trying to turn it into this post-9/11 terrorism deal.”
To be sure, such punishments are still the exception. Most people caught using a fake ID, particularly to buy alcohol or get into a bar, will walk away with a slap on the wrist. But even that slap can sting. In New York State, offenders are typically charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, and resolving it can require multiple court appearances and the services of a lawyer. The process often lasts up to six months, said Zachary Johnson, a lawyer with the Manhattan firm Galluzzo & Johnson who has defended several such students. “These kids come in and they’re terrified, because they think it’s going to affect their future, or their parents are going to find out,” Mr. Johnson said.
But for an underage person, it’s easy to believe the price of not having a fake ID is far steeper than the price of having one. “I just don’t think I have much to fear,” said William, the college student in Chicago. “It’s not like I’m using it to smuggle bombs into the country.”
Use of false ID by youth to buy alcohol is a slippery slope toward alcohol use disorders, study shows
- Many underage youth use false identification (ID) to buy alcohol.
- A new study has found that almost two-thirds of a college student sample used false IDs.
- False ID use might contribute to the development of alcohol use disorders by facilitating more frequent drinking.
Many underage youth use false identification (ID) to circumvent minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws in order to obtain alcohol. While underage students tend to drink less frequently than their older college peers, they are more likely to engage in high-risk drinking and are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders (AUDs). A new study of the contributory role of false ID use among college students has found that almost two-thirds of the sample used false IDs.
Results will be published in the March 2014 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
“Alcohol use is extremely prevalent among underage youth in the United States – despite MLDA laws – and poses health and safety risks,” said Amelia M. Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health and director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, as well as corresponding author for the study. “Alcohol is easy for most youth to obtain, and false IDs comprise one of the factors contributing to alcohol’s easy accessibility.”
Arria added that false ID use seems to be related to high-risk drinking in at least two major ways. “First, heavy drinkers tend to be more likely to obtain and use a false ID,” she said. “Second, false ID use appears to contribute to further increases in how much and how often a student drinks. In our sample, we found a clear pathway from more frequent false ID use to more frequent drinking, which led to greater risk for developing alcohol dependence, even after adjusting for several risk factors for AUDs. Thus, we believe false ID use contributes to high-risk drinking patterns because it increases the accessibility of alcohol and makes it easier for students to drink more frequently.” This study is the first to examine the association between false ID use and subsequent risk for developing AUDs (Alcohol Use Disorders).
Arria and her colleagues recruited 1,015 college students (529 females, 486 males) – who had drank alcohol at least once in their lives by their first year in college – for annual assessments during their first four years of college. In addition to questions about the use of false IDs, researchers also examined several other factors that might increase risk for an AUD, such as: demographics (sex, race, living situation, religiosity, socioeconomic status); individual characteristics (childhood conduct problems, sensation-seeking, age at first drink); high school behaviors (high school drinking frequency, drug use); family factors (parental monitoring, parental alcohol problems); and perception of peer drinking norms.
“First, we found that 66.1 percent of the sample used false IDs,” said Arria, “and on average, we estimated that they used false IDs 24.1 percent of the times they drank before they turned 21. Second, we demonstrated that false ID use led to increases in drinking frequency and quantity. Third, we showed that while false ID use wasn’t directly related to AUD risk; it indirectly predicted increases in AUD risk over time through its contribution to increases in drinking frequency. Lastly, the study identified several predictors of false ID use frequency, such as younger age at first drink of alcohol, greater levels of alcohol and drug involvement during high school, higher levels of sensation-seeking, Greek life involvement, and living off-campus.”
“I think some of the most important findings to come out of this study have to do with how widespread this problem is,” said Jennifer Read, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “I was surprised that almost two-thirds of the students used false IDs. It will be interesting to see if this reflects something specific to this university or region in Dr. Arria’s study, or if the use of false IDs is this ubiquitous across campuses in the U.S.”
Or beyond campuses. “It’s difficult to say whether these findings would also apply to non-college-attending young adults since their environment is different from those of college students,” said Arria, “however, it seems likely that the factors that predict false ID use might be similar regardless of college attendance. Future research can help confirm whether our findings could be applied to non-college-attending youth and to evaluate whether or not interventions to reduce false ID use is effective for both students and non-students.”
Regardless the status of college attendance, Arria added, interventions targeted at youth and policies that enforce sanctions against false ID use are needed. “Reducing the use of false IDs needs to be a priority for policy makers in order to help reduce excessive drinking among college students,” she said. “Other research has suggested that effective measures include heightened enforcement of sanctions against individuals who manufacture and sell false IDs; confiscation of false IDs by alcohol retailers, bars, and clubs; and the use of ID checking machines in establishments that are restricted to persons who are of legal drinking age. Sanctions for individuals caught using false IDs could include their confiscation, fines, and citations. Most importantly, high-risk drinkers should be directed toward effective interventions that can help them change their behavior. Ultimately, this will promote their health, safety and long-term success.”
Both Arria and Read spoke to the importance of parental awareness and involvement in the issue.
“Just knowing how common the use of false IDs is suggests that this, among other things, is something that parents should be monitoring and also talking with their kids about,” said Read. “Both parental monitoring and communication have been shown to buffer against problem drinking outcomes in young adults, and this is another area where parents might be encouraged to engage in these practices.”
“It is important to note that heavier drinking patterns seem to be both a predictor and an outcome of false ID use,” said Arria. “In other words, false ID use might be ‘adding fuel to the fire’ among students who are already high-risk drinkers. An additional finding is that increases in AUD risk over time were explained by increases in alcohol frequency but not by increases in alcohol quantity. This is important for researchers because it emphasizes that frequency and quantity are unique, distinct dimensions of drinking, and that they contribute to AUDs in unique, distinct ways.”
“One of the big implications I see of this work pertains to drunk driving,” added Read. “As the authors note in their discussion, in all likelihood, this underage drinking likely is taking place in bars, clubs, etc. “While in some cases these underage drinkers have a designated driver or are taking public transportation, it’s probably reasonable to assume that many others are not. In future research, it will be interesting to look at the extent to which the use of false IDs is linked to driving under the influence.”
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Co-authors of the ACER paper, “False Identification Use among College Students Increases the Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder: Results of a Longitudinal Study,” were: Kimberly M. Caldeira, Kathryn B. Vincent, and Brittany A. Bugbee of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health; and Kevin E. O’Grady of the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland College Park. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This release is supported by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network at http://www.ATTCnetwork.org.