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Fake IDs in Clemson: A problem that extends beyond drinking

Courtesy of Bart via Flickr

Drinking, whether you are 21 and over or not, is seen by many as being part of the college experience. And if you take a stroll around a number of college campuses on any given weekend, it’s plain to see that more than a few students embrace this notion. And for some underage students, it is not a matter of when or if they’ll be able to obtain alcohol, but how. One avenue taken by minors is buying a fake ID. 

To own a fake or to not own a fake? 

Some students with fake IDs have them simply for the convenience of being able to buy alcohol whenever they want to. IDs can be ordered online, typically from China, and take about a month to be delivered. On IDGod, a site frequently used by Clemson students, IDs cost anywhere from $40 to $200 depending on the state license requested and how many IDs are ordered. IDs from the site are sold in twos so that in the event a bouncer or police officer takes one, the user still has another to fall back on.

“I have a fake so I can buy alcohol for myself without having to ask someone older to buy it for me,” Jackie* said. She also said that she usually does not use her fake to go to bars, but has bought drinks at a bar before. 

“I recently ordered a new ID from IDGod, and it looks terrible. It looks like I cut the edges with safety scissors. It’s a cross between an ID and a playing card,” she said. She did, however, use the ID to purchase alcohol and it worked. 

Stephanie* wants to use her fake to go to bars, but finds it easier to simply buy alcohol at convenience or grocery stores. 

“I think for now I’ll just stick to buying from stores, but I want to try to go downtown soon,” she said. 

“I’ve used my fake a few times at some grocery stores. Sometimes I get a weird look from a cashier, but the ID always scans,” Stephanie said. She mentioned that she typically looks for the youngest cashier working because they would have the least experience identifying a fake ID. 

“Once my friend went with me to the store, but he used a different check-out lane than I did because if you are buying alcohol and look young, they ID everyone in the group. I didn’t notice this, but when I handed my ID to the cashier, my friend said he gave me a very weird look. Probably because the town the ID says I’m from is kind of weird,” she said. 

When she ordered her fake with her friends, they took a money order to Western Union to send cash to China. For a while, they were concerned about if the IDs were worth the trouble of sending a money order so far away. 

“We honestly looked very sketchy. The cashier asked where the money was going so we told her that we were getting custom dresses from China for an upcoming formal. I really don’t think she bought it, but she couldn’t do anything about it,” she said. Stephanie’s ID took about a month to arrive.  

Others get fakes because of FOMO (fear of missing out) combined with the fact that fraternity parties have been suspended indefinitely. The IFC decided to suspend fraternity social events held at houses due to recent reports of sexual assaults at Alpha Gamma Rho and Delta Chi, both off-campus parties held at the fraternities’ houses. Both events are still under investigation. 

“My boyfriend is 21, and I want to go downtown with him, plus during the weekend there isn’t anything going on,” Jasmine* said. She was caught the first night she tried to use her fake in downtown Clemson at Tiger Town Tavern.

“I used it at Triple T’s. The bouncer looked at it for about 0.001 seconds and shook his head no. He handed me the ID back. I think the ID looked way too new or something. I’m not sure. I’ll try again though,” Jasmine said. 

An anonymous spokesperson from TD’s downtown typically just sends underage drinkers on their way when they are caught with a fake ID. 

“If I know the ID is fake I just tell them, ‘Hey the ID is fake and we can’t accept that,’” he said. He also mentioned that most of the fake IDs are seen during football season when out-of-state teams visit. 

“A lot of out-of-state people are found with them during football season that don’t go to school here, but not too often. The cops are pretty good about it,” he said.  

Detective Tate Brown works for the Clemson City Police Department as a narcotics and alcohol investigator. He has been with Clemson PD for over 25 years, and the Clemson Alcohol Enforcement Team (AET) works closely with SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division).

“They’re used everywhere. It’s across the board. We get a majority of our fake IDs downtown, but we also make cases for fake IDs in the parking lots of grocery stores, convenience stores and ABC stores,” Detective Brown said. 

Those without fake IDs cite   many  reasons  as  to  why they do not own one.

“It’s too expensive for little benefit,” Chad said. 

Others would rather wait to purchase alcohol or go to bars than risk jail time and expensive fines if caught.

“If someone is caught with minor in possession with alcohol and they have a fake ID, they’re going to get two tickets and not just one,” Detective Brown said. 

“It’s not worth the risk getting caught, and I can wait. If other people have a fake ID, you can mooch off of them,” Brad said. He also mentioned that he does not go to or want to go to bars so he feels as though it is not worth it.  

Money was once again cited as another reason not to get a fake ID as they cost between $40 and $200 and occasionally have flaws that make the fake ID invalid.   

“I haven’t felt like I needed one yet. There hasn’t been a time for me when I’m like “Drat, I need this.” There are other ways. Plus I’m broke,” Penelope said.  

Purchasing your new identity

The more IDs ordered, the cheaper they are. The IDs are paid for using Western Union or Bitcoin by sending money anonymously to China. IDGod instructs the money to be sent to a name that is provided by them. 

“Anyone now who has access to the internet with a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, whatever that may be, it takes you about 30 seconds to find a website that will make a fake ID for you and most of those are overseas in a foreign country,” Detective Brown said. 

IDs come in packs of two in case the first one is taken by a bouncer or police.

“They’ll [underage drinkers] get a fake ID and they’ll use that one until it gets taken by law enforcement, and we may run into them a month down the road or two months down the road again and they have another one and we get told, ‘Well I got two for one.’ It is very common because of the ease of it,” he said. 

The IDs are typically delivered with things like socks or bracelets so the package can successfully go through customs according to IDGod. IDGod IDs are made to be able to scan and show the information in the correct format. 

Interestingly enough, on the IDGod home page, the IDs are advertised to be used to purchase alcohol in order to “have a good time” and “start living today.” On their terms and conditions on the same website, purchasing an ID is “100% legal.”  

Fake versus real: How to tell the difference

There are a few simple techniques that anyone can use to differentiate between a fake ID and a real one. One of the easiest ways to decipher an ID is by simply looking at the holograms on it. Using a flashlight to look at the holograms can help determine if an ID is fake or not. 

At TD’s downtown, a combination of things are used to spot a fake ID including looking at the picture to see if it is Photoshopped, looking at the holograms, and using an LED blue light. 

“There are certain things that the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and the State of South Carolina put on a real issued driver’s license or ID in South Carolina, and there are things that we can look for: numbers, certain things on the DL [driver’s license] that people who purchase fake driver’s licenses from overseas where the majority of them come from in foreign countries that they don’t know about,” Detective Brown said. 

According to the ID Checking Guide, by looking at the fine lines, ghost images, laser engravings and perforation, and overlapping data, it is fairly easy to tell if an ID is legit or not. Also, the texture, flexibility, and weight are indicators of fake IDs. More often than not, the signature on a fake ID is either a fancy font from word, or simply too nice of a signature to be done at the DMV. 

“I will tell you that the new issued South Carolina driver’s license for 2018 that complies with the federal ID statute are even better, and we even have more techniques that we can spot,” he said. 

The birth date also obviously matters. More often than not, as stated by The National Notary Association, the birth date used is far too old for someone who appears to be in their early twenties. Along with a faulty birthday, appearance on a fake ID, such as height and eye color, frequently does not match the user of the ID. Many of these mistakes are simple fixes, and sites like IDGod and IDchief perfected the art of deception. 

Dark side of fake IDs

The Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors conducted a study comparing the ownership of fake IDs to heavy drinking in college students. The study found that prior to college, about 12.5 percent of students owned a fake ID. By the fourth semester, about 32.2 percent of students owned a fake ID. The study was stopped if a student turned 21. A correlation was found between ownership of a fake ID and heavy drinking. A correlation was also found between involvement in Greek life and possession of fake IDs. 

Two Republican senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mark Kirk of Illinois, and two Democratic senators,  Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, wrote letters to China in an effort to urge their government to take action against the businesses that make fake IDs. 

Although fake IDs are usually bought by college students to purchase alcohol, these senators reference a much darker side of false identification. The IDs made by IDGod and IDChief are made to scan and provide the exact information that is on the ID. Unfortunately, this also works with airport security checkpoints, obtaining a concealed weapons permit, or even opening a bank account. 

These IDs can be obtained by terrorists to do all of the above, which is the main concern of the senators writing letters to China. The above issues have been referred to as a breach in American security due to the dangers the forms of false identification bring. 

Owning a fake ID has many consequences if one is caught in possession of one. In the United States, the possession of false identification is illegal. Specifically in South Carolina, there are two different statutes concerning fake IDs, according to Detective Brown. 

“There are couple of statutes. 56-1-515 which is altering a DL [driver’s license] or use of an altered DL [driver’s license]. There’s 561-510 is unlawful use of a DL [driver’s license]. For both of those the fine is $232.50,” Detective Brown said. 

Over the years, fake IDs have become easier to purchase as the idea of altered IDs have been pushed out by online ordered IDs that are relatively cheap and eerily realistic. 

“It’s safe to say it’s not are you going to get caught, but just a matter of time of when you get caught with your fake ID by law enforcement, and there’s programs such as the AEP [Alcohol Education Program] and the PTI [Pre-Trial Intervention]. Students have those options when they get caught, but when they run out there is nothing. People have to live with that on their driving record or possibly a criminal record,” he said.

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