Despite their legality (or lack thereof), fake IDs are ubiquitous across college campuses. Responsible RAs warn against the commodity, citing the harsh consequences of owning one: “Up to one-year of incarceration, a fine of $2000, or both,” according to the Barone Defense Firm. Posters line the walls of freshman dorms informing students that selling a fake ID is a punishable felony that could lead to $10,000 in fines or up to 5 years of jail time, or both. And yet, the fake ID market still persists.
Fake IDs are an art form born out of necessity, and their muse? Senator Frank R. Lautenberg from New Jersey. In an act meant to combat drunk driving in the United States in 1984, Lautenberg raised the drinking age from 18 to 21. The Prohibition Era showed us laws that take away a person’s access to alcohol won’t necessarily deter them from getting it anyways, so it makes sense that Lautenberg’s bill only served to create the fake ID market. There are genuine concerns regarding this rise in false identification, but underage college students just trying to have a good time maybe shouldn’t have been this country’s first priority.
The art of creating a fake ID is an elusive one — as the popularity of the false ID grew, so did state precautions. IDs may have everything from a fun bear outline when a light is shined on it to a fun “tricolor image of a bridge on the front that appears and disappears when viewed from different from different angles.” These characteristics are meant to make an ID harder to copy, and they do, but some see these simply as obstacles to overcome on their way to a night on the town.
With the rise of the internet, it’s not surprising that most students get their IDs from an online retailer. These sites, though, tend to rely on a business-minded student that act as middle-men, campus ID ambassadors if you will. These students are the key to the market — they gather the customers, their details and, just like a true artist, aren’t always proud of their final product.
In an email interview with The Daily, one anonymous student discussed the difficulties of getting an ID photo just right: “a white background … no shadow showing behind the person.” Forget being able to take high quality Instagram photos or LinkedIn headshots, the value of a photographer lies in their ability to make a subject look fresh out of the DMV. Personally, this student “was not proud of the way (their fake ID) turned out, just because (they) feel that the picture was taken too far away.”
Just because the photo has strict guidelines doesn’t mean artists lose all semblance of creativity. This same student mentioned the fun behind being from a different state or being able to make “your new address to be a mansion or even a local McDonald’s.” Imagine that — for all Schlissel does to fight the drinking culture at the University, someone could have picked his address to deceive a bouncer or a clerk at the local liquor store. Inspiration can come from anywhere, too. Some people skip the “different state” thing altogether and go international, toting Irish or Chinese IDs that go unquestioned. But our source stressed that the only way to truly test your ID’s legitimacy (other than risk getting caught at a bar) “is to hold it side-by-side with a real ID from that state.”
That begs the question, though: Is a real (expired) ID of someone who looks like you better than a fake ID of you? The answer depends on your preferences. Just like some people prefer a Rococo era painting to that of a darker Renaissance piece, some like the comfort of knowing their ID is real rather than carrying around something totally fake. According to our source, one detail to keep in mind is the fact that “if the ID has another person’s name on it, but a picture of you, it is identity fraud” — a legal line that most people aren’t trying to cross when they make their fake ID.
Just like the stone or clay matters in sculpture, materials matter in the art of making fake IDs. Most state IDs use some kind of PVC plastic or a “synthetic paper material” called Teslin. Teslin is useful in its tear resistance and waterproof qualities. That said, it also a very easily accessible material, making it an ideal material for most fake IDs. One problem a counterfeiter may run into with Teslin, though, is the legibility of the inkjet printing, a simple problem that can be detrimental if not properly handled. Even still, some state IDs are made out of polycarbonate and will break in half upon enduring the infamous “bend test.” Our source even said others may even go so far as to steal a DMV ID machine, taking out some of the fun of figuring out what exactly goes into making an ID, but producing a high-quality ID nonetheless.
Aside from ordering a fake ID, there are numerous places where someone could learn how to make an ID themselves. One site, King of Fakes, offers a tutorial on how to DIY a fake ID — all you need is a printer, some photoshop skills and a template to follow for the ID. It seems simple, but like most DIY projects, it’s probably best left to the professionals. And despite improved technology, like 3D printing, our source isn’t any more optimistic about the future of the DIY ID. To them, new technology “can’t make fake IDs more believable, because your ID is either real or fake.”
While it may seem a daunting task to make your own ID, no one ever became a renowned artist by being scared. The art of the fake ID is an untapped source of inspiration. If Billy McFarland was able to copy his debit card magnetic strip onto a piece of steel, successfully making your own fake ID is probably not too crazy of a dream — just an illegal one.