How to Spot a Fake ID

By Victoria Bailey - Updated December 15, 2018
Bouncer working at the door of a nightclub

If your business sells age-restricted products such as alcohol, it's crucial that all of your employees know how to spot a fake ID. Penalties vary from state to state, but a first-time offender in Florida, for example, can face up to $500 in fines and 60 days in jail for selling to a minor without diligently checking for identification. Police departments across the country use compliance checks as sting operations, attempting to find stores that sell to underage buyers, and your business can suffer if caught doing so. Make training in spotting fake IDs part of every new hire's orientation to help avoid future legal problems.

Tip

Spotting a fake ID is crucial for businesses that sell age-restricted merchandise. Learn to find fake IDs by using the official ID Checking Guide, and teach your employees to do the same.

Training Classes for Employees

Create a system for checking IDs of every patron who looks under 30, teach it to every employee and insist it be used at all times during operating hours. Train all employees to do the same steps every time to create a habit of checking every ID in the same way. Your training materials should emphasize steps such as:

  • Looking at the patron to make sure his face matches the ID photo, and that he doesn't look nervous or intoxicated
  • Physically feeling the ID for known counterfeit features such as a bump under the picture or layers that aren't sealed together
  • Asking the patron questions such as year of birth or birthday to assess sobriety as well as validity of the ID
  • Checking the ID for known security features
  • Learning the company policies that are in place when an ID is found to be counterfeit

If you don't feel comfortable creating your own training materials for checking ID, contact your local police department to find out if it offers help for local businesses. If not, professional companies exist specifically for training staff in the art of spotting fake IDs, and they can have your employees well-versed in finding counterfeits in a short time.

The ID Checking Guide

The gold standard for checking IDs across the country is the official ID Checking Guide. This book has been published for 40 years, each year coming out with a new version that includes highly detailed photos and all pertinent details that tell how to spot a fake ID, no matter which state it claims to be issued from. Each entry includes information on all micro-printing, laser images, markings, tactile features or any other identifying mark that each state includes in its driver's licenses and state ID cards. The book includes the United States and Canadian provinces, but is available only to government agencies, law enforcement personnel, and certain businesses. These include retail businesses that sell age-restricted products such as alcohol or tobacco, check cashing establishments, company HR departments, and retail stores that accept checks or credit cards. All businesses wanting to purchase copies of this guide must include their company name and contact information, which will be verified before the guide will be sent.

About the Author

Victoria Bailey has a degree in Public Law and Government. She has spoken before state Supreme Court justices and her photograph is on the back cover of Bill Clinton's autobiography. As a former member of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Bailey worked closely with lawmakers to help set public policy. Bailey's work appears on numerous websites, and she's currently writing the text for a governmental information app.

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