Anyone looking online for information about spotting fake New York state identification cards should expect to come across multiple sites offering these false documents for every one site that might actually give tips on spotting them. It is not terribly difficult to buy identification online that appears to be authentic but is, in fact, fake.
There are state-specific things to look for on the card, as well as common sense questions to ask to verify the authenticity of the card.
Who Needs to Spot a Fake ID?
It's no walk in the park for people whose jobs require them to verify individual's identities and ages. This includes law enforcement officers, bank clerks, club bouncers, liquor store employees, human resources officers and landlords. That's because it is getting easier and easier for the public to purchase personalized fake identity documents that look real, and the quality of these documents is constantly improving.
Using a fake ID is illegal. Young kids and teenagers who use fake IDs, particularly to buy alcohol or tobacco products, may think that they are committing a harmless offense, but the truth is very different. In New York, having a fake ID is a serious crime that can result in prison time.
Types of New York IDs
New York has several type of state-specific identification cards that are commonly used for verification of names and birthdates. The IDNYC may be the most common and is certainly New York-specific. The IDNYC is a free card offered within New York City – it may or may not be accepted outside of the state.
The IDNYC is advertised as a “card for all New Yorkers, from all backgrounds and from all five boroughs. Your immigration status does not matter.” There are various incentives offered by venues and businesses to IDNYC cardholders in all five boroughs of New York City – Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
Other common ID cards include the New York standard ID card, the REAL ID or driver's license, and the enhanced ID card, which is valid for border crossings into Mexico and Canada.
Penalties for Fake ID in New York
New York Penal Laws Section 170.25 makes possession of a fake ID a crime in the second degree a felony, the more serious type of criminal offense. It is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in state prison.
Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a lesser offense, a Class A misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence is one year in jail, probation for three years, and a fine of up to $1,000.
Anyone who misrepresents their identity or tampers with their identification card in New York can be prosecuted for forgery or impersonation, which could lead to a $500 fine and a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. If you need to identify whether or not an ID is fake, it may take some time but it can be done.
Borrowing Someone Else's ID
What about borrowing someone else's identity card? It is criminal impersonation under New York PL Section 190.25 to be caught in New York using an authentic identification card that belongs to someone else or using a fake identification card that contains the name and personal information belonging to a real person.
This is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. If the identification card at issue is a driver's license, there are additional penalties including license revocation up to a year, a fine and jail time.
Checking Out a New York ID
The best way to check out the authenticity of a New York ID card is, unfortunately, not available to the general public. State DMV investigators use a smart phone app called Intellicheck that instantly determines the authenticity of the card by simply scanning the barcode on the reverse side of the card and running it through a variety of databases.
However, downloading the app requires special permission from the company. Anyone not having privy to this app can try a few other methods of checking the authenticity of a ID:
- Look for a wavy display of the name and birthdate, shaped around the duplicate photo. If the ID display is not written in a curving shape, the document is not likely authentic.
- Look for sturdy cards, since valid New York identification cards are well-made. Cheap laminate suggests that the card is a fake.
- Look for a hologram on the front of every NY ID. It should not come off if scratched lightly.
- Run a finger over the official number of the ID card. Authentic ID cards will have numbers that are in raised print and can be felt with the tip of a finger. Any identification card that lacks this feature is likely false.
- Look for a copy of the original photo printed on the back of the ID. The photo should be identical to the one on the front but will be inverted horizontally.
- Check for rounded edges on all four sides of the card. This is how authentic New York ID cards are made. If the edges feel squared off or rough, this is a sign of a fake card.
- The license or identification card should not be peeling or have air pockets and bumps in the laminate. Many fake cards do peel and/or show air pockets.
Commonsense Approach to Fake IDs
It is also possible to sniff out a fake identity card by using a commonsense approach. This applies not just to New York state ID cards, but those from any state. Any of these commonsense tactics are likely to smoke out a fake card:
- Take the card and ask the individual to tell you their name and birth date, verifying that they are identical to those written on the card. Ask for their horoscope sign. They may have memorized a fake date of birth, but perhaps haven't worked out the horoscope yet.
- Have them verify their home address. Ask for their Zip code. Ask for the cross streets.
- Ask for a second identification card. Many people carry more than one card, if authentic, but only carry one, if fake. Check the two cards against each other.
- Read all writing on the identification card with an eye out for misspellings. The word "license," for example, can easily be misspelled. Look at the listed hair and eye color. Do they match up with the person? What about their height and weight? Ask them to sign their name on a separate piece of paper and compare it with the signature on the card.
- Rosenblum Law: Caught With a Fake ID in New York
- Saland Law: What Is a Crime for a Fake ID?
- Top Fake ID: How to Spot a Fake New York ID
- Intellicheck: The Best First Step in Validating Identity
- FindLaw: New York Penal Law Section 170.25 Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree
- NYC: IDNYC
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.