Part 1 of Fake It Till You Make It
Miami University sophomore *Jerry Graham walks down High Street, stopping to let his glassy eyes linger on The Wood’s bar. Bombastic bass leaks out and drifts down the street, creating the soundtrack for a typical Saturday night out.
As he approaches, two lines confront Graham. He confidently chooses the left and presents his driver’s license to a burly bouncer who nods, returns the ID and sends him through to a second bouncer who outfits his right arm with a bright blue wristband.
Graham is in.
What those two bouncers do not realize is that Graham’s Illinois driver’s license, listing his birth year 1991, is off by two years. The 19-year-old just used a fake ID.
Researchers working with the University of Missouri and the Midwest Alcoholism Research Center (MARC) found in a study published in 2010 that Graham is far from alone. Of the 1098 college students surveyed, 21 percent admitted to having a fake ID of some kind. Furthermore, the study read that one in three of those students are caught using them.
Police officers and bar bouncers, as well as students, report a drastic improvement in the authenticity of fake driver’s licenses.
Miami University’s prominent bar scene compels underage students to look past the consequences of being caught with a fake ID. At most bars Uptown, under 21-year-olds are charged a $5 cover fee, while those 21-and-up get in for free.
“It saves time and money,” Graham said. “I looked at [getting a fake ID] as an investment and I thought to myself, ‘$70 up front [for the ID] would save me $5 every time I go out, so that would pay itself off really quickly.’ And it’s more convenient and allows you to buy alcohol without having to ask someone else to do it for you.”
To Graham, the risk-reward ratio tips heavily in his favor.
“I use it every time I go out, so three times a week on average,” Graham said. “It works every time.”
The same survey, “Methods of fake ID obtainment and use in underage college students” breaks down how those 230 underage students obtained their fake IDs.
According to the survey, only 36 percent of students buy their fake ID, while the rest get them from a relative or friend. The difference is that a purchased ID, typically from a website or some other dealer, is not a valid license. A relative’s or friend’s old ID is valid and comes complete with a valid license number that matches the license’s information, something that not even the best fake IDs can accomplish.
Graham chose to have a fake ID made, saying that one with his actual picture would be more effective at the bars.
Sergeant Gregory Moore of Oxford Police Department (OPD) said finding a way to obtain a fake ID is not difficult.
“Just like being 19 years old and trying to get yourself a 30-pack of Natty Light, it’s just as easy nowadays to get a fake ID,” Moore said. “If you don’t know somebody, you probably know somebody who knows somebody.”
Graham followed that exact path to obtain his fake ID.
“I got it from a friend of a friend who goes to [Ohio University],” Graham said. “I never met him before and I took a pretty big risk. I sent money in a birthday card to his dorm address, and I paid $70 for one ID and had to provide my picture and information and he shipped it to me.”
The Miami University Police Department (MUPD) works with the Department of Homeland Security to monitor packages coming to and leaving the Campus, according to MUPD Detective Walt Schneider who works with Homeland Security to limit fake ID use.
“Homeland Security is constantly monitoring those things,” Schneider said. “I had one package that had 28 IDs in it and we ended up arresting the kid that ordered them.”
ID Chief, a foreign website, was a popular source for these shipped IDs.
“ID Chief is based out of China and it’s an American citizen that’s running the company and he’s made millions of dollars selling IDs and getting people arrested,” Schneider said.
The website, however, is no longer active, forcing underage students to seek other ID manufacturers as Graham has.
The same survey, “Methods of fake ID obtainment and use in underage college students” depicts the ways in which the 21 percent of students use their fake IDs. According to the same study, 86 percent of students use their IDs to get into bars, raising the question of whether or not the doormen or bouncers are doing their jobs.
Moore acknowledged that there are many rogue doormen who let in friends and ladies no matter what they present. He said he sympathizes with the ones who are committed to keeping fake IDs out because many look so realistic.
“I can’t necessarily fault the doormen, the few who are actually trying to do a good job,” Moore said. “I can’t really fault them.”
*Junior Derek Johnson spent over a year working as crowd control and as a doorman for The Wood’s.
“Basically, we’re not really trained on what fake IDs look like versus the real ones,” Johnson said. “We use common sense. If you’re not sure, then you let it go, but if it’s obviously fake then we don’t let them in.”
Johnson said the more a bouncer works the door, the more familiar he becomes with the nuances of each state’s ID, such as specific reflective holograms.
“If there is a hologram out of place or if it looks nothing like the IDs of that state that we have seen, we know it’s fake,” Johnson said.
However, Lt. Stephen VanWinkle of the MUPD pointed out that finding each fake ID’s flaw still may not stop every underage student from entering the establishment.
“It can be a real ID that looks like you from a family member or a cousin or a sorority or fraternity member or just someone that you know that’s passed down their ID to you and it’s a real ID,” VanWinkle said.
Johnson is aware of the volume of students, just like Graham, who continue to get away with using false identification.
“Tons of people, hundreds of kids,” Johnson said. “A lot of them are hard to identify, not just at [The Wood’s] but at bars across the campus.”
*Name changed to protect source from legal or employment ramifications.