MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - With prom season here and graduations right around the corner, underage drinking becomes an even more immediate concern for parents and law enforcement.
Gone are the days of borrowing an older sibling's driver's license or tampering with the birth date on your own license.
These days high school and college students have access to something previous generations did not have- a world of ever-evolving technology at their fingertips. The internet offers kids the opportunity to purchase a very convincing fake identification card without leaving their bedroom.
Chief Mike Crawley is the Director of Law Enforcement for the Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
"There are some very good IDs that you look at and they're almost impossible to tell that they're fraudulent," Crawley says. "They're so good with the internet today."
Crawley showed WBTV stacks of ID cards from every state, all confiscated, all fraudulent. There are many ways for teens to obtain a fake ID. A quick Google search of the words "FAKE ID" netted more than 13,000,000 in less than one second. They pointed us toward websites that sell ID cards as well as YouTube videos showing how to create a fake ID yourself.
Ordering a fake ID online will cost in the range of $100, but some sites advertise ways to bring down your cost. Fake21.com offered users the opportunity to become "affiliates," saving money by buying in bulk for friends. It is a good payday for cash-strapped teenagers, says Crawley. "You go to a college campus or a high school campus and you can get 30 people to do it."
While there are several state statutes which address buying and selling fake IDs, the websites are difficult to shut down. Many operate and/ or ship from outside the United States, and they seem to float in a "gray area," marketing their products a novelty items.
Before making a purchase from theidshop.com, for example, the user must agree that the ID card "is for novelty use only," and that "this instrument is not deceptively similar to any local, state, or federal identification."
Navigation Free Just As Apps Ads With Exposed Maps Google While that may protect the seller to a certain degree, it does not help the buyer. "When you have a driver's license that you've altered or you've purchased somewhere or you've fixed it up, you've changed it, you have your picture on it, the intent there from the very beginning… your intention is to do something illegal," says Crawley.
That intention can have serious consequences. If you are caught with a fake ID in North Carolina you can lose your driver's license for up to a year.
And, notes Mary Ward, Community Relations Director at the Mecklenburg County ABC Board, young people often do not realize that can follow them through their lives. "You're going to have to answer to that," she says.
"Risk taking is normal for this age group," Ward explains. "There's that exercise between the parents and the children of beginning to grow up a little bit and that's when you see a whole lot more experimentation going on."
In a 2007 study by the University of Missouri- Columbia and the Midwest Alcoholism Research Center in St. Louis, Missouri, researchers found 7% of high school students said they had used a fake ID to buy alcohol. That number doubled to 14% among college freshmen.
North Carolina is taking steps to make it more difficult for underage people to get their hands on alcohol. The state has introduced a vertical driver's license for anyone under 21. "It's a quick whoa, wait a minute!" Ward says. "And that is the way it is intended to be. It is intended to make someone stop a minute and really go through that process to evaluate that ID a little bit closer."
"They'll have them from Arizona, Kentucky, Connecticut because they're thinking… these people don't have the Connecticut or the Kentucky driver's license all the time, they don't see them, so they're not going to be as familiar with them as they are with the North Carolina driver's license."
Mecklenburg's ABC Board is working to fight that as well by providing establishments which sell alcohol with a guide book. It contains examples of ID cards from every state- a quick reference guide so the person making the sale can compare and be sure the ID is legitimate.