Few people would think to use a burrito discount card as the base of their fake ID, but that’s exactly what a Boston University exchange student did when purchasing a drink from Sidebar Food and Spirits in December 2018.
As the ID was getting inspected, the lamination split in half, revealing that it was fake. Perhaps the student would have found more success with a professionally made ID — which are more accessible now than ever.
Sidebar general manager Katie Klem said she has dealt with customers using fake IDs for many years, and that her bar does everything they can to combat increasingly indistinguishable fakes.
“I have a pile of fake IDs that I’ve taken over the past two or three years,” she said. “Definitely over 100, maybe even 200. People will fight, and you’d be surprised how far people will go to really try to convince you that it’s real and put up a fight.”
Fake IDs are a major point of frustration and liability for alcohol vendors nationwide, Klem said. And even when the IDs look legitimate, the blame often falls on the businesses selling the alcohol.
“It’s just nerve-racking because if somebody has a fake ID, it’s my fault even if it’s like a perfect ID,” Klem said. “… But now, some kids what they’re doing, they’ll have their real information put on their ID so they know it all, except their birthday just changes.”
A simple Google search for “fake IDs” yields a host of vendor sites and several related search options. The pages claim that their IDs are both accurate and guaranteed to scan or pass professional inspection.
The commonly used online seller “ID God” charges anywhere from $40 to $200 for a fake, according to their website. The price depends on factors such as which state the ID appears to be from and how many people are buying together.
Fake IDs also come with the cost of fines if users are caught.
According to Massachusetts law, the use of a fake ID in the state is punishable by a maximum fine of $200 or imprisonment for at the most three months.
BU Police Department Sergeant Patrick Nuzzi said these penalties don’t always defer young people in Massachusetts from using fakes.
“Even though the ramifications are very high, there’s still people every year who take that chance and think they won’t be caught,” Nuzzi said.
According to a report produced by Real Identities, LLC and supported by a grant from the Center for Alcohol Policy, borrowed and stolen IDs are some of the most commonly used fakes as they are legitimate, government-issued identification. The report also stated that some fake ID vendor sites have reported receiving more than 10,000 inquiries on a single day.
The liability that comes with tolerating fake IDs is a concern for bar owners like Klem, who risk losing their liquor license if they do so.
Klem recounted a situation from a few years ago when a group of Suffolk University students came to Sidebar, all of whom had fake IDs and were served drinks. She said the students were randomly checked by visiting police officers and kicked out. The bar, however, had to close for five days.
Nuzzi said the police usually get involved in cases of fake IDs after an attempted use.
“[Police involvement is] very minimal because we’re not inside an alcohol establishment monitoring someone making the purchase,” he said. “[Minors] get brought into the station, or at minimum, their ID gets confiscated. They’re brought into the detective unit to see what happens next.”
Nuzzi sad that any BU student caught using a fake ID will have to face both university Judicial Affairs and the court system.
“It can be career-ending,” he said.
Kelly Allison, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that while fake IDs were common in her high school, that isn’t the case for most people she knows in college. Allison said she has noticed a spur in demand among college students to get fake IDs.
“Everybody had a fake ID in high school,” Allison said. “And I assumed everybody coming from high school would have a fake ID here, but they don’t.”
It remains to be seen how businesses will combat ever-improving fake IDs, but regardless, both minors and bar owners alike will continue to take their respective risks.
“Why would I risk losing my entire business so that [minors] could come in here and drink?” Klem said. “They don’t understand how much it really is an issue.”
It’s not legal, whether or not the ID is fake, for the bar to steal it. In particular, it’s a felony for anyone to possess a fake, which includes Sidebar.