Despite police efforts, official says most students use fake IDs

by Jens Krogstad

Fake identification cards have long laid side by side with a driver’s license in a college student’s wallet or purse.

Brian Kringen of the Department of Public Safety, Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division estimates 60 percent to 70 percent of college students have used or own a fake ID.

“I’ve talked to bar owners the last few years, and fake IDs are definitely a problem,” University Police Capt. Steve Johnson said.

Yet many University-area bars and liquor stores do not seem to be confiscating them at a high rate.

Chris Stadick, security manager at Sally’s Saloon and Eatery, said his staff confiscates approximately three to four fake identification cards per week.

“I wouldn’t say (use of fake IDs) is a big problem at all,” he said.

Most students said it is not a problem either – for liquor establishments near the University. They said they usually do not try to get into places close to campus such as Sally’s because it is known they are scrupulous in checking identification.

To encourage liquor sellers to check students’ identification, local police conduct random annual alcohol compliance checks in which an underage person tries to buy alcohol.

If the attempt is successful, civil penalties such as fines, suspension or revocation of the establishment’s liquor license are imposed. If the vendor does not ask for identification, that employee is immediately fired.

There are also informal ways of policing bars and liquor stores.

Charles Huck, a bartender at Stub and Herb’s, said if police notice an establishment is not turning in as many fake identification cards as expected, officers will keep a closer eye on the establishment.

Sometimes bars and liquor stores bend the rules, but police cannot be everywhere.

A computer engineering sophomore said he has been able to get into a bar with a bus pass.

“There’s a place near campus that lets me in with just my U-Pass, and I look, like, 12 years old in my picture,” the Institute of Technology Honors Group student said. “The guy (checking identification) said, ‘I just have to look like I’m doing my job.’ “

Both male and female students agreed bar security personnel seem to have a weakness for female students.

“At the bars, I’ve heard of more guys getting turned down at the door than girls,” an elementary education junior said. “I think it’s because most of the bouncers are guys.”

While there are some rogue liquor establishments, most bars and liquor stores do their best to keep alcohol from underage people, and they are getting help from the state.

The latest design of the Minnesota driver’s license features a hologram of snowflakes and the word “Minnesota,” loons that only appear under a black light, and microprinting. The cards can also be scanned to verify authenticity – the only feature impossible to fake.

One student said he looks for establishments that look run-down because they are less likely to have the equipment necessary to take advantage of new security features despite federal and state resources to address underage access to alcohol.

Less adventurous students sometimes use expired licenses and try to pass them off as their own.

Stadick estimated that approximately half of those at Sally’s Saloon and Eatery with false identification present real IDs that are not their own.

“A lot of people will get their older brother’s ID or friend’s ID or something like that,” Huck said.

Those who choose to pay for fake IDs often get out-of-state licenses. Because security personnel are not as familiar with them, the licenses sometimes are not caught.

This is especially true on busier nights when it can be difficult to inspect each card thoroughly.

“If you don’t take your time and look at them, they can slip by,” Stadick said.

The most convincing fake identification is made through a technique called “scratching.”

A knife and ballpoint pen can alter the date of birth on a person’s real driver’s license.

One student said he changed the birthday on his license from 1983 to 1980 using the scratching method.

The license cannot be detected through scanning because it uses the person’s real driver’s license, which makes it nearly flawless, he said.

There is one limiting factor to this technique.

“Scratching really only works if you’re born in ’83, or I guess ’93 now,” the student said.

Those who pay for their fakes can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 for one, depending on the quality, and they might wait up to three months for them.

As a first-year student, Lou, now a journalism junior, bought a fake ID in a dorm room at one of the Superblock residence halls.

Lou, who did not wish to use his last name, said a man using an obviously fake name such as “Ziggy” made it known he was selling “novelty” IDs – not illegal fake IDs.

The man offered a fake ID to any student who let him use a room to set up shop. In the room, he took pictures and payments in a fairly successful operation, Lou said.

“It was packed in the little dorm room – there had to be about 20 people coming in and out all the time,” he said.

While the use of fake IDs might be widespread at the University, Kringen said it is still illegal.

“Any way you cut it, it is a criminal offense to possess and use fraudulent identification,” he said. “If caught, not only are you facing criminal ramifications, but your driving privileges can be revoked.”

For many students, this remains an empty threat. Liquor stores and bars usually confiscate false identification, but the only loss to students is often the money paid to get the ID.

For Lou, who had hundreds of dollars’ worth of fake IDs confiscated in his first two years at the University, it was worth the cost.

“In hindsight, I guess I don’t regret it,” he said. “It was worth it for me to be able to drink, even though it was $225.”

Jens Krogstad welcomes comments at [email protected]