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How To Spot A Fake ID | What Is A Fake ID?

By
Brad Johnson
Table of Contents

From learning how to open a bar up through mastering restaurant operations, remaining lawful is essential. That’s why it’s vital to watch for fake IDs, which have grown by 13% over the last 40 to 50 years among 18 to 20-year olds. 

Customers use fake IDs for all kinds of purposes. While women are 16% more likely to use one to get into a bar or club, men are 8 to 11% more likely to use it to buy alcohol. 

The punishments for serving minors can range from fines to jail time, so the best approach is to prevent it at all costs. Continue reading this post for tips on how to detect fake IDs.

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How To Tell If An ID Is Fake

Whether people are tempted to get drinks with older friends or are simply up to no good, people have all kinds of motivations for fake IDs. Underaged college students use fake IDs about 25% of the time they drink, and fake ID usage has gone up over time. 

13% more Millennials use fake IDs compared to Baby Boomers. As technology has become more advanced, so have false IDs.

That’s why checking for fake identification is one of the most important bartender duties. You’re putting your livelihood at risk if verifying IDs isn’t part of your bar SOP, even if security staff already checked them.

Here is how to tell if an ID is fake with three different methods:

Does It Appear Borrowed?

The most common way people fake IDs is by borrowing one. This accounts for about 95% of false ID cases and they’re usually the easiest to spot. 

Check the picture and information on the ID against the person who handed it to you. Do their face and eye color look correct? Do their height and weight correspond with the information on the ID? If not, you’ve spotted a faker. 

If the information appears valid but your gut is telling you otherwise, ask the person to recite their birth month and day or address. Any hesitation or inability to answer indicates that ID isn’t theirs. 

Since this is the simplest and most common form of ID checking, include it in your restaurant training manual. That way new barbacks and servers at your business are educated on it from day one. 

Is It A Forged ID?

Another way people use fake IDs is getting one forged. There are numerous illicit services that make fake IDs for a fee, usually $50 to $100. Forged IDs are harder to spot but it can be done. Here’s what to look for: 

  • Check the edges. Normal, government-issued IDs have rounded edges, whereas some fake IDs do not. If the ID you’re holding has slightly jagged or squared edges, something’s fishy. 
  • Scan the ID. The appearance of an ID card can be faked pretty easily, but not its barcode information. Scan the ID through a comprehensive ID database. If the report produces any kind of error, or the card can’t be scanned at all, you know it’s fake. 
  • Examine the back. While much effort is put into the front of fake IDs, it’s less common with the back. If the ID’s backing looks suspicious or is even blank, that’s your sign. If the backside appears somewhat normal, run it through a scanner to be sure. 
  • Conduct a feel test. If the ID passes the previous tests but something still feels off, gently squeeze or bend the ID. Even the most convincing fake IDs will start to peel or buckle when put under a little bit of pressure. Legitimate IDs require excessive pressure to chip or damage. 

Has Information Been Altered?

Yet another way people fake identification is changing some of their personal information. The most common info people change is their birthdate, which increases the odds they’ll make it into a nightclub or bar. 

Detect whether or not this info has been changed by running your finger across the birthdate line on an ID. If the texture feels smoother or bumpier than the rest of the surface, this is often a sign of alteration. 

Though verifying IDs is certainly part of how to run a bar, it’s not the only thing you’re responsible for. Inventory consumption, maintaining par stock, and using popular cocktail recipes are part of the business too. 

Our bar inventory software BinWise can handle the heavy lifting of each of these factors for you. Instead of dealing with excess inventory at the end of the month, let our perpetual inventory system show you high demand products in real-time. 

We even have an inventory scanning app, BinScan, that scans over 100 bottles per minute. Save time and take your bar profitability to new heights. Book a demo to see what BinWise can do for you.

How To Spot A Fake ID By State

People attempt several methods when trying to illegally consume alcohol. One of those methods is making their ID look like it's from a different state, or the same state but with different imagery. 

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to detect a fake ID if you know which characteristics are difficult to replicate. Below are a couple tips on what to look for.

Incorrect Holographic or Blacklight Image

Each state has a different blacklight or holographic image that’s included with each government-issued ID. These images aren’t noticeable during plain viewing but become visible when the ID is under ultraviolet light or held at an angle. 

Most states issue IDs that have the state name or seal printed across the card that can only be viewed under UV lighting. When handed an ID, flip your UV flashlight on to check it. You can also tilt the ID back and forth between a 30-degree angle to look for holographic images under regular lighting. 

You should see your state’s current seal or phrase appear under UV lighting, and a holographic image flashing if that applies in your state. If not, the ID has been forged and you'll need to turn the customer away. 

Missing Laser Perforation 

Another feature of modern IDs is laser perforated holes. These are tiny holes created by laser printers that aren’t immediately visible.

Each state has a different laser perforation pattern and you’ll see it when the ID is held to direct light. If the laser perforation pattern isn’t correct or it’s missing entirely, you’ve uncovered a fake ID. 

How To Spot A Fake New Jersey ID

Whether you were recently hired for bar staff or are getting familiar with state ID changes, practicing ID checks is the best way to strengthen your knowledge. As an example of what to look for, here is how to spot a fake New Jersey ID: 

  • Examine the ID’s shape and feel. State-issued IDs have a specific thickness and are smoothly laminated, both front and back. If the ID feels a little thin or as though the lamination can be peeled, this is the first sign of a fake ID. 
  • View under UV lighting. When held under a UV flashlight, NJ IDs should display “NEW JERSEY” on the top and bottom of the front side. The state’s outline should also appear in the middle of the ID. Older NJ licenses will display the owner’s name and date of birth on the bottom half of their photo. If any of these features aren’t present, it’s a false ID. 

Detecting fake IDs in any state is doable with a sharp eye and plenty of hands-on alcohol server training. If you aren’t familiar with your state’s unique blacklight and holographic images, contact your Secretary of State’s office. 

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Spot A Fake ID

Uncovering a fake ID can be a tricky task. You need a system to check IDs quickly, notice irregularities, and keep the line moving. Popular nightclubs have thousands of guests per week, meaning staff needs to detect ID authenticity in a matter of seconds. 

Improving your ID checking skills can be a matter of learning what other professionals do. Look at these frequently asked questions and our answers below: 

How Do Bouncers Spot Fake IDs?

Bouncers typically check the smoothness and edges of IDs to test for consistency. Legitimate IDs are fully smooth across the front and back and have uniform, rounded edges. 

If an ID has squared edges or appears like it was hastily printed, this is a red flag. At this point, a bouncer may ask the individual to recite information from the ID. They may also turn the person away without asking any questions. 

Bouncers also bend IDs just enough to see if they’re resilient. If the ID retains its shape and doesn’t peel at all, this means it’s real. If someone’s ID starts to fold or snaps in half, the ID is completely fake.

How Can You Tell A Fake ID With A Blacklight?

There are three main ways you can spot a fake ID with blacklight: chalking marks, glue, and missing seals. Chalking marks are found when someone tried to or successfully removed the birthdate and name from an original ID. These appear as whiter-than-usual marks when viewed under a blacklight. 

UV lights also reveal glue marks, especially on the sides and edges of IDs. If you see lines on the edge of an ID that look irregular or messy, this indicates fake information was glued to the front. 

Finally, blacklights will uncover state seals on legitimate IDs, or the lack of one. State seals demonstrate the authenticity of documents; if you don’t see one, it was more than likely forged. Make sure you know what your state seal looks like and whether or not its location on IDs has changed recently. 

Can You Go To Jail for Having A Fake ID?

Yes, jail time is a possible punishment for having or using a fake ID. Some states classify this offense as a misdemeanor whereas others consider it a felony, so it depends on where the offense took place. 

While misdemeanor jail time for a fake ID ranges from 90 days to one year in prison, felony convictions may be anywhere from 2 years to 10 years. This information alone demonstrates how risky false ID possession is.

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Fake IDs Are The Path to Real Trouble

Though millions of people try to use them each year, uncovering fake IDs is possible. You simply need the right tools and practices in place. 

Taking the time to check each ID thoroughly keeps you employed in the hospitality industry. No matter how innocent someone may seem, it’s not worth jeopardizing your reputation or the business’s liquor license.