How to Spot a Fake ID

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Identity theft is rampant, so if you ask for a customer’s ID as part of your business or campus procedure, you or your employees need to know what a fake ID looks like. If you don’t know and have done nothing to protect yourself, then shame on you. Identity thieves count on your lack of knowledge so they can use false identification cards (some even poorly made) to defraud you of your service and/or money.

And don’t think that identity theft is just a minor financial crime. The two worst cases of domestic terrorism in the United States (Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings) were both committed by suspects using fake IDs.

Many industries (hotel, retail, mortgage, escrow, property rental, healthcare, etc.) ask for identification, but don’t train their employees how to recognize a fake ID. For the past eight years I have taught thousands of people how to check for the security features used by all states to verify a real ID. The last I time I checked, there were more than 240 different IDs in the United States. Most states use the same security features, but they add their own twists. Some of these features can be seen with the naked eye, while others require some simple technology such as a UV light and a high-quality magnifying glass.

The California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control teaches a system called F.L.A.G. to check IDs. It stands for F = feel, L = look, A = ask and G = give back to the person or police. There are more than 25 different points to check in F.L.A.G. to be aware of on ID cards. Here are just a few of them:

F Stands for ‘Feel’

There are some tactile security features you should be able to feel. First, do not accept an ID shown to you from inside a wallet window slot, which prevents you from touching it. Have the person take his or her ID out of their wallet so you can feel it.

When you are holding it in your hands, be mindful that ID thieves have learned to counterfeit some tactile features. Fortunately, the quality of these features is below state-issued identification cards. As you can see in this example, on the counterfeit ID, the suspects placed clear glue on top to give it the tactile feeling. Focus on quality.

L Is for ‘Look”

Look at the picture. Is the person standing in front of you the same person in the ID picture? This is very subjective. You will need to focus on the “Triangle of Recognition” area of the face (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and chin). Here is what the “Triangle of Recognition” looks like. Unless the person has had plastic surgery, these areas will not change dramatically over a period of time.

Hair, eye brows, eye color and facial hair can be changed. Faces can get thinner or heavier with weight gain or loss. However, the position of the ears and eyes will not usually change. Look for a difference that can’t be explained. For example, if the person standing in front of you has a dimple on the chin, but there is no dimple seen in the photo ID, then this should be considered a red flag. Dimple implant surgery is not a logical explanation.

Additionally, look at the signature. You do not have to be a handwriting expert to recognize a major difference in the signature on the card and on a document you have them sign in front of you. Can a person’s signature vary? Yes, but it could also be dramatically different because that person is using an ID that does not belong to them.

A Is for ‘Ask’

Bouncers at bars are good at asking questions and catching the fake ID holder in a lie. For example, the fake ID will probably have a fake date of birth. This new fake birth date might fall under a different Zodiac sign than the suspect’s real birth date Zodiac sign. You might ask the suspect “What is your Zodiac sign?” The suspect might know his fake date of birth because he memorized it but probably won’t know his new Zodiac sign.

G Is for ‘Give It Back or Give It to the Police’

If you have checked all the security features to the best your ability and believe that the person in front of you is the same person in the picture, give the card back to them and continue doing business with them. If you believe you have a fake ID, you can seize the card.

I advise everyone at my seminars not to get into the business of confiscating fake IDs and possibly be assaulted over it. I do suggest that you photocopy the ID card if you can and return it to the suspect. Also, are you in a safe environment (your office with fellow employees vs. the suspect’s house)? Can you ask for a secondary form of ID if you are not sure? If you want to file a fraud crime report afterward, the photo copy of the ID will be very helpful to the police investigation.

These Steps Are Just a Start

Every 2 seconds, an identity is stolen in the United States, reports CNN. Additionally, 46 percent of all identity theft crimes are committed with a fake ID. If every industry were trained how to spot a phony identification card, almost half of the identity theft crimes would be stopped.

The police can’t investigate every identity theft crime and recover your loss. However, you can take the steps to train your staff or employees and protect yourself and your campus. Or, you can continue to ask for IDs and blindly accept them as real. But if you get fooled and become another victim, shame on you.

Glen Garrity is a retired 21-year police detective and founder of G2 Safeguards, He can be contacted at [email protected]

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