How to Spot a Fake I.D

Two Parts:Examining the CardStudying the Cardholder

As driver's licenses are becoming ever easier to forge, fake licenses are growing more common and more accurate. If you're in a position where you have to verify someone's age or identity — whether a bouncer at a club or a teller at a grocery store checking a license for tobacco sales — it's important that you be apprised of the methods used to detect fake identification. This article will teach you how to protect both yourself and your place of employment against the use of fake IDs.

Part 1
Examining the Card

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    Feel the edges. A 30 mil PVC card, which is what most legit IDs are printed on, will have smooth, uniform edges. Because forged IDs are printed on simpler pieces of laminated paper, though, they'll be rougher and perhaps even coming apart.
    • Bend the edge of the ID slightly. If it's real, you won't see the layers give or buckle. If it's fake, the laminated layers might start to come unglued.
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    Look at the foils or holograms.[1] If you turn the ID in the light, any holograms, foils or background outlines should flash in and out of vision.[2] They should not be consistently bright.
    • Most of these images will feature the state crest, state shape, or state name. Keep your eyes peeled for any images or emblems that look less than official.
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    Examine the micro print with a magnifying glass. Almost all fifty states make use of micro print on their driver’s licenses. Micro print is incredibly small writing that appears to be a solid line when inspected without a magnifying glass. However, under 10X magnification, you should be able to see legible writing.[3] Micro print is difficult to reproduce, so most fakes will have a solid line under magnification.
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    Scan the ID if possible. Forged IDs often have real magnetic stripes, but the equipment to encode these stripes is expensive. Consequently, most forged IDs will not scan. If it does, compare the data from the scanned ID to the information on the card. It may contain their name or their DMV number, which should match.
    • You can download apps onto your smartphone that will determine whether or not an ID has been faked.[4]

Part 2
Studying the Cardholder

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    Compare the holder to the ID.[5] Does the person presenting the ID actually resemble the picture? Or does he resemble the picture too closely? Here's what to look for:
    • If the holder is wearing exactly the same clothing and hairstyle as the photo on the ID, be suspicious. The ID might have been made hours before.
    • Look for slight differences in facial features. People often present the IDs of close family members as their own.
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    Ask the holder for a detail from the ID. If he or she has stolen someone else's ID, they might not remember smaller details. On the other hand, if this person has manufactured a fake ID, they might recall the details too well (for instance, giving a 9-digit ZIP code instead of the standard 5-digit one). Here are some good details to ask about:
    • ZIP code
    • Height
    • Weight
    • ID number. If the holder can rattle this off, it's probably fake — almost no one memorizes their driver's license ID number.
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    Ask for additional photo ID. A lot of fake IDs are legitimate, state-issued IDs that were lost, stolen or transferred. If that's the case, the holder won't have any additional ID as backup.
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    Look for signs of anxiety. If the holder is avoiding eye contact, asking for the check quickly, or otherwise looking nervous, be suspicious.
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    Bluff. If you're still unsure, smile at the holder and say, "Hey, I think I need my manager to take a look at this." If it's fake, the holder will want it back immediately, and you can hand it back and refuse service. If it's real, he or she will probably be fine with having a second set of eyes on the ID.


  • If the ID holder appears way younger or older than the way they look on their alleged picture then the ID may be fake.
  • If the ID holder decides not to enter the establishment upon receiving the check, the ID is probably a fake. But as long as you have not sold any alcohol, you cannot be held responsible for allowing the person to leave.
  • If you work in an establishment that IDs for cigarettes, take note of the characteristics of the IDs of cigarette sales. Chances are, those IDs are real since many people do not use fake IDs for cigarettes. The more time you spend analyzing real IDs, the better you will be at spotting fake IDs. There is little to no variation between real IDs of the same state.
  • Some law enforcement agencies have procedures in place where local businesses may call their local police to verify the birth date on an ID. Call your local police station and ask if such a procedure is established.
  • If you can see light through the magnetic strip when shining a flashlight through it, the ID is probably a fake. Magnetic strips on legitimate ID cards will block most or all light from shining through.


  • Check with your local laws regarding the confiscation of IDs. Even though fake IDs are illegal property, confiscating them may not be strictly lawful. You are under no obligation to confiscate, so when in doubt, refuse the sale and give the ID back.
  • The information in this article constitutes legal information, NOT legal advice.

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Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure