A few weeks back, I was at a local watering hole met a couple of girls who revealed to me that they were only 19 and 20. They showed me their IDs and, at least to my untrained eye, they looked just like the real deal. These didn't appear to be some old, expired IDs passed down from one sorority sister to another; these were high-tech replicas designed to pass even the strictest authentication tests.
I was already pretty certain where they had gotten them, and I turned out to be right: they had ordered them online.
I've known for a while that people could order fakes on the web, but I didn't realize they were THAT good. Granted, I'm not a bouncer or police officer, so they actually could've been pretty horrible. However, the fact that they got past the bouncer at that place attests to at least some level of competency in their forgery.
I was also surprised at how willing the girls were to admit they were using a fake. I could have easily been a police or excise officer. In fact, back in college a friend of mine got busted in that exact type of scenario. The whole ordeal cost him nearly $5,000 in court costs.
When I got home, I simply googled "buy fake ID" and one of the top was a subreddit (a custom-made subforum on the site Reddit.com) that was devoted to "Fake IDs" and anything related to them.
I then thought to myself, "I wonder how this works? Do I just give them a picture and some personal info?" My curiosity was starting to get the best of me, so I decided to order a couple and document the process. If nothing else, I knew it would make for an interesting story.
I chose two ID vendors that were listed as being reputable, had fairly quick production and shipping times, and had a quality score of 7 or above. Plus I planned on paying extra for rush delivery so I would get them quickly. Here are some of the reviews one of the sites had listed:
"Seal Team six level stealth, this is the type of stealth made for crossing customs. Some people are having such a hard time finding it he had to put instructions on his vendor page, which I think is hilarious."
"I received it today and the first thing I did was go to the liquor store and test it out. I went in and picked out the biggest, cheapest, strongest bottle of vodka I could get my hands on. I walk up to the register and put that big thing down, pulled out my ID, handed it to him. He looked at it, nodded, and handed it back to me. He didn't even question me or anything."
I then needed to secure some bitcoins, as that was the primary method of payment. For those of you who don't know what bitcoins are, they're basically a peer-to-peer digital currency that allows for semi-anonymous transactions to take place. There is a lot more to it, but for now we'll just stick with that. Needless to say, these guys aren't exactly taking American Express.
I found a site called Coinbase.com that made the process of acquiring bitcoins pretty easy, and after a few minutes, I was ready to go. It then took about 10 minutes to input the information I wanted on the IDs and officially submit my order.
Remember, this isn't Amazon.com, so I had a heavy suspicion that I just tossed about $350 out the window. However, one of the sites did give me a confirmation and tracking number, so they at least made that part seem legit. I eventually got an order number from the other site, but nothing after that. I should note that possession of an "actual" fake ID is also an "actual" crime (even a felony, in some instances), so the IDs I created for this experiment were for Peter Griffin from "Family Guy."
After that, I waited… and waited… and waited. The tracking number didn't update for days and I thought for sure I got scammed. But then, finally, it changed.
As you can see, my package was coming from Taiwan, which was unsurprising. I learned that nearly all the vendors outsource their ID production to China because it's cheap and the law can't touch them there.
About a day later, my package was delivered. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:
I have to admit, if I didn't already know they hide the ID inside ordinary objects I might have missed it, and I would have been forever wondering why they sent me some random air conditioner instruction manual. As you can see above, the ID was embedded into the middle page: sketchy, yet smart. I guess this is how people get illegal items through customs.
As far as the other ID I ordered, I still hadn't heard anything.
I took the new ID and compared it with a friend's legit Florida ID. The difference was immediately noticeable.
Regardless of whether or not a cartoon character was used, the color scheme of the entire ID was just too dark. In addition, you couldn't see the background image; it just looked like a giant blob.
I decided when I went out the next weekend to bring the ID along and simply ask the bouncers at each bar I went to what they thought. I then asked them to assign a "grade" based on the ID's quality and whether or not it would pass. I went to five bars that night, and here is the "report card" my ID received. (Take these results with a grain of salt: since the bouncers already knew it was a fake, it's reasonable to assume they automatically gave the ID a lower grade. Plus they all kind of thought it was a joke because it had Peter Griffin on it.)
In the end, based on my own assessment and those of the bouncers, my ID was definitely subpar.
I posted a picture of it on the subreddit I mentioned the before, and the general consensus was that it would probably pass in most out-of-state bars but not at any strict places that actually know what to look for – and definitely not in the state of Florida.
Digging a bit deeper, I downloaded an app called ID Scanner PRO, which has been marketing itself as a legitimate replacement for expensive ID scanners. it cost me 8 bucks, and low and behold, my ID scanned correctly and showed up as valid.
So while my ID may have not been completely worthless, I still wouldn't have been confident enough to use it even if I had included my actual info and picture.
It wasn't worth the risk back when I was in college, and it isn't worth it today. Yeah, if you get caught you'll probably just get turned away or get a slap on the hand, but depending on your luck and who catches you, you may actually wind up getting arrested. And if you're really unlucky, you could end up with a felony charge depending on the state you're in. This doesn't happen all the time but it certainly can. These high tech fakes are becoming a big problem for law enforcement, and it wouldn't surprise me if they tried to make an example out of someone.
Oh and if you're wondering about that other ID I ordered… I never received it. I know what you're thinking, "Faceless Internet people who specialize in identity fraud just took your money!? How can this be???" So much for being a "reputable" vendor. Knowing this, if you like the idea of getting scammed for over $150 or arrested because of an ID's horrible quality, then by all means, ignore what I've said and order away. For the rest of you, you’re far better off waiting until you’re 21 to hit the local bars and clubs.
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