When people think of fake IDs, they may envision teenagers trying to buy alcohol or enter nightclubs.
But glamorizing this as a "rite of passage" needs to stop, said David Huff, senior special agent for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
In a post-Sept. 11 world, the same online sites and technology that make fake IDs for youth are also producing them for criminals and potential terrorists, he said.
Security experts say false IDs are increasing in sophistication with security features and some web-based manufacturers promising machine-scannable counterfeit cards. The concern for law enforcement isn't just underage drinking, but other crimes connected to false IDs or documents including fraud, credit card theft and the manufacture of methamphetamines.
That's why Huff and the state ABC department continually train officers at the Hampton Roads Regional Academy for Criminal Justice and across the state. A training session this month included Department of Defense police at the Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk.
Young people don't fully understand the zero-tolerance consequences of showing a fake ID to an officer, Huff said. Doing so can lead to a misdemeanor arrest and a criminal record that could keep future employers, particularly the government, from hiring an offender.
"They are giving that ID with the intent to establish a false identity, which makes it a very serious offense," Huff said.
The new Virginia driver's licenses with laser-engraved security features and holograms is harder to replicate, so the longtime method of borrowing someone else's ID is increasing in popularity, officials said.
But with just 100 ABC agents working the commonwealth and more than 16,000 retailers in the state licensed to sell alcohol, the department relies on business owners to enforce the use of proper identification.
Nine times out of 10, the fake ID is a valid borrowed one, said general manager Chris Tucker of the Steelhouse Tavern at 14346 Warwick Blvd., in Newport News
Tucker said Steelhouse has one of the best doormen in the area, but the main deterrent to underage drinkers is hiring off-duty police officers as security in the parking lot.
In a weekend where 200 to 300 people could fill the tavern, security will come across three to four fake IDs, he said. Most would-be customers who are turned away have cracked or damaged cards.Morris Duane Duane Llp Philadelphia Llp Morris Offices Offices nnZHrg
Additionally, Steelhouse has hired a retired ABC agent as a consultant to keep up-to-date on law changes and for checking the latest in fake ID tactics. If a bouncer is new, the agent works alongside him for training, Tucker said.
The local scene
Most underage people trying to get into the Sandbar Grill and Pub at 736 J. Clyde Morris Blvd. either borrow an ID or alter an old one, said manager Randy O'Neill. But with the new Virginia licenses, that's not easy to do anymore.
O'Neill said he personally sees between 50 and 100 fake IDs in a year. So far this year, he's caught about 20. Most Sandbar customers are regulars with 70 to 120 people filing in for the weekend entertainment.
In the past, he used to catch people using badly laser-printed false Texas or North Carolina IDs, but hasn't come across that lately.Of A Infographic Retirement Diversity Bipartisan Risks Security Eqf1fwxI
Smart On Apps Play id Google "It's pretty much just paying attention to what you're doing," said O'Neill, who's been working in restaurants and bars for more than 28 years.
The Alley on Newmarket Square in Newport News sees between five and six fake or borrowed IDs nightly, said general manager Emory "DJ E" Coleman. Between 900 and 1,200 people fill the popular dance club on weekends, he said.
In addition to internal training, Coleman brings in a consultant once or twice a year to train security staff, bartenders and servers on detecting fake IDs.
For Coleman, body language tells him when someone may not be using their ID card. Sometimes it's hard to catch fake IDs, but Coleman said he pays particular attention to matching facial features and hairlines to those in the ID photos.
And sometimes, he'll ask a customer for a signature. "It's hard to duplicate someone else's signature," he said.
Not every local nightclub experiences problems with fake ID users.
The Comfort Zone on West Mercury Boulevard in Hampton caters to an older crowd both with music and by only allowing those ages 30 and up inside for the night entertainment, said owner Charlene Hope. The age limit keeps the crowd size manageable and keeps underage drinkers from wanting to come in, she said.
Tips on spotting fake IDs
While some venues use electronic card readers, the best fake ID detection tool is still the trained and experienced officer or worker. State officials and local bar managers give these tips on spotting fake IDs:
•Feel the card. Make sure it isn't too thick or flimsy, heavy or light.
Apps Google Smart On id Play •Check the marks and security features of out-of-state licenses with samples and guides provided by ABC.
•Don't check in the dark.
•Pay attention to body language.
•Ask questions. This also helps to gauge whether someone is already intoxicated.
•There is no such thing as an international driver's license. An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates information contained on your driver's license into 10 languages so that officials in foreign countries are able to interpret your license. An IDP supplements a valid government-issued license — it does not serve as a replacement for a license.
Types of fake IDs
Fake IDs include identification that is false, manufactured, altered or borrowed.
Source: Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and U.S. State Department
Fake ID arrests in Virginia 2011
50 for person under 21 using false ID to buy alcohol
Smart id Play On Apps Google 18 for fraudulent use of a driver's license
25 on other charges
Smart On Play id Google Apps *ABC notes that is not illustrative of how many fake ID incidents have occurred.
On Smart Apps Google Play id Source: Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control