Fake IDs on Campus

On college campuses across the nation, underage students turn to fake IDs to gain access to alcohol. But if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that fake IDs don’t come cheap. Are fakes really worth the high prices that producers charge? IDpapa took an inside look at the underground market for fake IDs to figure out what really goes into making one.

A bar located near a certain university.

*For the protection of customer privacy, the names below have been concealed.

Freshman Davis nervously waits in line outside of a local Evanston bar reciting her “personal information” as she looks over her Michigan ID. This would be the first time that Davis would hand over this ID to the bouncer, and she’s having second thoughts. She grips the plastic card tightly, banking on the fact that she’s memorized the information front and back.

Davis’ friend had almost dragged her to a place that was probably too “sophisticated” for her ID to pass. They opted for a shadier venue, hoping the bouncer would believe she was old enough to drink.

“I knew I had to look somewhat collected when we got there otherwise they would be suspicious, but my friend made me more nervous. I still kind of get nervous even though I know I’ve never had a problem with it,” Davis said.

However, memorizing fictitious addresses, birthdates, and zip codes will only carry a student so far. Consumers want a product that they can trust that will not only be reliable but also be scarily close to the actual DMV product.

But producing fake IDs is easier said than done. The quality of the product varies due to minute changes in the polyvinyl chloride, spectrophotometer-matched ink, and luminescent holograms. Up-front costs including the printer and templates can run up to $2000 alone, according to The Economist.

“Fixed costs are huge: the machine, the overlays, but once those are covered the IDs themselves are a very minimal cost. But what the real cost is, [is] in the risk. You are paying someone to take on that risk for you. Producers are constantly having to acquire templates and holograms,” Hall said.

“Honestly it’s hard to tell [if the ID is fake]. Often, you cannot be completely sure that the ID is fake until you run it in the database,” Evanston Police Commander Joseph Dugan said, referring to the state license database.

This is where fake ID producers come in. Mike Hall, Northwestern sophomore and producer, said that people who opt to create and distribute fake IDs take on the responsibility of remaining anonymous at all times.

“You have to find a way to wire money or seek out a way of transferring funds so you aren’t going to expose your bank accounts. Beyond that, you also end up shipping these IDs straight to your front door. By taking on the risk for these students I have an opportunity to profit from it, ” Hall said.

The fake ID business has become a lucrative industry for not only foreign providers in countries like China but also for college students looking to capture some of the student market while simultaneously profiting from the high demand.

Competing with popular international companies such as “idlord” and “724ID”, producers aim to convince students that their fake ID is the superior product. A successful producer makes an average of $1500 a week, according to The Economist.

According to Hall, prices can run as high as $300 depending on the quality of the ID. The market is usually divided between three tiers of value. The lowest tier averages around $100 while the highest rounds up to $300.

“I use the tier system to differentiate between price points. The cheapest price point of $100 gives you very similar features to the other tiers. However, there are tiny nuances between IDs that make the difference between getting into the Deuce, Three Dots and a Dash, and Paris [bars]. Quality is the difference,” Hall said.

In order to create the most realistic ID possible, producers and middlemen including Hall used the deep web browser Tor to protect their anonymity. This browser conceals users’ identification by re-routing Internet traffic through alternate servers across the world. Once on Tor, Hall used the online currency, Bitcoin, in order to purchase the necessary materials to produce the ID.

“I’m taking care of the picture, Bitcoin, and the necessary contact between the producer. To do all of this you have to remain anonymous,” Hall said.

Do You Need a Fake ID in College?

It’s May and you just committed to college, now you think to yourself, do I need to buy a fake ID? This might not be you, but some people choose their school based on their party life. For most people, it’s their first time being away from home without their parents looking over their shoulder every 2 minutes. No parents means no lectures, no lectures means free to do whatever the hell you want. 

Now, no judgment for real, if you’re super against buying a fake ID, that’s fine. I mean, it is illegal. But you can either be informed or misinformed and at the end of the day, there is a reason fake ID are even a thing. Because people BUY them. 

But in college when it comes to social life, the first thing a lot of people do is get a fake, but do you need one to have said social life? 

Honestly, from the responses I received, it depends, and here’s why:

I asked some of my friends who go to different schools and the majority of them said yes or it depends. Here are their replies:

Friend 1 (Michigan): “You need to be able to go out to a bar or something to get drunk and most people already have it (a fake). So if you don’t have one, you’re left out. You can’t go to the liquor store to buy anything nor get any nicotine products, so you have to rely on others which doesn’t always work out”

Friend 2 (Connecticut): “If you’re a guy, yes. Guys always look younger while girls can look older or younger. As a guy, I just started having facial hair and I’m 21 so as a man, I’m going to look younger. Every bar wants a good guy-to-girl ratio so they might let girls in underage but not guys. ”

Friend 3 (Pennsylvania): “I do not think I need a fake ID for college because my school isn’t a heavy bar school. Even though there are bars, they scan and are notorious for telling which are fakes”

Friend 4 (New York): “Yes, you need a fake because you can’t do anything fun without a fake. It’s a bar school”

Friend 5 (New Jersey): “I think yes and no. For me, since my campus was small and there weren’t many bars, besides one, it wasn’t necessary. Nights out consisted of going to a frat where they provided the alcohol and you didn’t need an id to get in. On Tuesdays for bar nights, if you went early when it was a restaurant, they wouldn’t go back and card you. As for people that went to bigger campuses that had bars nearby, maybe it would be necessary if that’s what you need to enjoy the nightlife.”

Friend 6 (New Jersey): “I didn’t get one because I was going to turn 21 pretty soon. My school is smaller, but I think you should get one if you’re mad young and go to a big ass school”

Friend 7 (Connecticut): “I think it depends on the person and whether or not the school is more of a frat house party like a larger school like Alabama. I feel like it wouldn’t matter as much because the party scene is good off-campus. Somewhere like my school where everyone was going to bars, it was helpful to have one.”

So five yes’, 1, no, and 3 it depends. 

When it comes to the answer, “it depends,” the first thing to consider is if you go to a bar school or a party school. A bar school pretty much means that most of the partying aspect of school occurs at bars. There aren’t parties, maybe because it’s a small school or they’re not big into frats, so where are you going to party? A bar. A party school is the opposite. People are throwing down every night, multiple places to go to, and you never have to worry about getting in, which leads to the next point. 

When do you have to worry about getting into a party? If you are a guy, plain and simple. 

Smaller schools have a smaller amount of people meaning not that many parties. If there are parties, they’re usually frat parties and frats DO NOT want other dudes coming to their parties, so they only let the girls in. If this is the case at your school, you’re probably not getting into a lot of parties. 

Fakes aren’t just for drinking, there are a lot of reasons why someone might want to get a fake in college, but it really just depends. Hearing my friends’ responses where you go to school matters, but you can survive without one.

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