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How to Tell if an FBI Badge Is Real

By Michelle Nati - Updated January 25, 2019
FBI agent working

Special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) carry official badges that identify them as working for the organization. However, there are counterfeit FBI badges that look authentic and are easily available for purchase online. Websites like Amazon have a policy against these counterfeit items, but they continue to flood the internet. With a fake badge and identification card, someone can impersonate an FBI agent and carry out crimes including home invasion robberies, child abductions or terrorist acts. Knowing what to look for in an authentic FBI badge can make all the difference in the safety and security of you and your family.

Impersonating a federal agent to take advantage of or otherwise deceive someone is a specific intent crime. If convicted, the person doing so can receive a fine and up to three years in prison.

Get a Closer Look

If someone claiming to be an FBI agent flashes a badge, get a closer look at it. A real FBI agent won't hand you the badge outright, but will allow you to view it from a slight distance. If you are in your home, make sure to look at the badge through a window or peephole and do not open the door until you are certain you are talking to a real FBI agent.

Be Aware of Small Details

Focus on the details of the agent's badge which will come in a billfold with the agent's identification card. An authentic FBI badge is small in size and gold in color. The badge should read “Federal Bureau of Investigation" in full at the top. If it is abbreviated to read "FBI," the badge is a fake. Also, if the gold looks chipped or dull, chances are it is made of cheaper materials than the organization's official badge which means it is likely fraudulent. Everything on the badge should be embossed, but not engraved.

The badge should have an bald eagle at the top with a blindfolded Lady Justice directly underneath and at the middle of the badge holding a scale and torch. She should be flanked by the letters "U" and "S" on either side. At the bottom of the badge, the words “Department of Justice” should appear.

Make Sure to Check the I.D. Card

Accompanying the badge will be the agent's identification card. It will contain the agent's name, badge number and photo. Make sure the photo matches the face of the agent who is holding it.

Fraudulent cards can look pretty close to the real thing. The best way to ensure an FBI card and badge are legitimate is to contact an FBI field office and ask for verification of the agent's badge number and identity.

To locate an FBI field office near you, consult an online directory or visit the FBI's website. If the FBI field office can't identify the agent with the information you've given, make sure to call 911 and report the incident immediately.

Request a Lawyer if You're Still Unsure

It is also possible that someone who is impersonating an FBI agent is using legitimate information from an existing officer on a fake FBI badge. If you are still not sure that you are talking to a real federal agent with the proper FBI credentials, request a lawyer. Remember, you have the legal right to remain silent. This will help if you’re being falsely accused of something or if a someone impersonating an FBI agent is trying to obtain information from you under false pretenses.

About the Author

Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.

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