Use of Fake IDs, Enforcement on the Rise

Now that graduation season has come and gone, and summer party season has begun, it's important for parents to be aware of issues related to the use of false identification among young people under 21.

The use of fake IDs among young people is pervasive. The internet has made obtaining one easier than ever, while better technology has enhanced the quality of fake IDs. Millions of teenagers and students younger than 21 years appear to believe that the rewards outweigh the risks of getting caught. People in this age group drink over 10 percent of the alcohol consumed in the country. Many are college students seeking entry to bars and clubs - a large population in Massachusetts, given the number of universities in Boston and across the state.


Recent national incidents demonstrate both the prevalence and the dangers of using fake IDs. In Spokane, Washington, bouncers and clerks at bars and restaurants have stepped up security, seizing hundreds of fake IDs. Police in the region plan to conduct undercover operations to stop the use of fake IDs by college students. In Arizona, authorities are in the midst of a crackdown, working with owners and manager to educate and train employees about detecting fake IDs. In addition, after catching underage drinkers, Arizona law enforcement may bring charges against any establishment that served underage drinkers and failed to check for IDs.

While technology has improved the quality of fake IDs, detection technology has improved at the same rate, or perhaps even faster. Anything less than perfect is easily picked up by bouncers or clerks looking through a jeweler's loop for microprint, holograms, and ultraviolet features that are nearly impossible to duplicate.

Consequences of Getting Caught

The penalties vary by state, but using a fake ID is a criminal offense punishable by steep fines and loss of one's driver license. In Massachusetts, using a fake ID to purchase alcohol is a misdemeanor that carries a fine, up to three months imprisonment, or both. Moreover, an arrest may haunt a young person for years, affecting his or her ability to obtain financial aid, entry into graduate and professional school, or certain types of employment. Other dangers flow from simply acquiring a fake ID. For example, a Chinese website that offered fake IDs used personal information provided by teenagers to obtain credit - mortgages and credit cards -- under their names.