Posted On: March 2, 2023

How to Spot a Fake ID

Fake ID statistics estimate that 15% of pre-college teens and 32.2% of college students have confessed to owning a fake ID. Using fake IDs among this age group is booming because it can give minors access to underage drinking in places where you typically need to be 21 years old to enter or consume. Today, tools are abundant at their disposal, making creating quality fakes easier than ever. 

If you work at a place that requires you to check your ID, you're likely aware of the dangers and consequences that serving alcohol to minors can lead to. However, spotting a fake ID can be a lot harder than you think due to the growing accuracy of fake IDs. This post will share the steps you should follow when checking your ID.

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How Can I Tell if an ID is Fake?

Before we get into it, you should be aware of the three most common forms of fake IDs, which are:

  • Borrowed IDs
  • Forged IDs
  • Altered IDs

To learn more about each type of ID and how to spot a fake ID, brochures and state guidelines, which can easily be found online, offer lots of helpful information.

Aside from brochures and state guidelines, you can also find online alcohol seller/server training programs that employees can quickly sign up for so they can learn the basics of spotting fake IDs.

However, before you get into that course, here are five more practices you can use to identify fake IDs on the spot! 


Memorizing 50 different identifications is extremely unlikely, especially given that state IDs are subject to change over time. With that said, remembering the key features of some of the most common IDs is an excellent place to start.

The color, holograms, placement of the various elements, and imagery are all things to consider when studying various state IDs. While forging IDs is easier now than ever, small mistakes can be big giveaways. Knowing what to look for can help pinpoint a fake and save your bar from trouble. 


It's vital to take your time when checking the ID. Even if there's a long line, rushing through an ID can land you in hot water. After all, you do have the authority to verify the customer's identity when you see fit. Spotting a fake often takes patience, and you may have to view the ID from all angles before making the final decision. 

Examine the ID thoroughly, looking for markings on the front and back of the card. How does the barcode look? How do the holograms shine? By moving the card around in your hand, you can better assess the strength of the ID.


If you suspect a patron is underage, you may as well inspect the card yourself instead of just letting them flash it into your face. Sometimes you won't need to look at the ID to tell it's a fake. The feeling of it alone can often be a dead giveaway that someone is handing you a fake ID.

Feel the material, bend the card, and test the thickness. You've likely seen plenty of IDs in your line of work, so you're likely well-versed in what a proper ID should feel like. If not, go into your wallet and study your driver's license. Anything out of the ordinary should raise immediate concerns. 


In many cases, a fake ID can be so good that none of the previously mentioned tests would work. However, there are still ways to know if someone is lying about the nature of their ID. When minors use fake IDs, their heart is probably racing when they see someone going above and beyond to check its validity. This can cause them to give off physical cues that come with nerves and a lack of confidence.

In police interrogations, suspects often act strangely when they feel like they're about to get caught. The same happens for those using fake IDs. When you suspect that someone is trying to get away with using a fake ID at your establishment, look out for the following signs:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Tensing of the body
  • Unusual body language
  • Animated gestures


If you have any reason to believe an ID is fake or has been tampered with, don't be afraid to ask questions. Most people don't use their real names on fake IDs and won't remember the information on the card. Don't hesitate to verify their name, date of birth, or address. If they hesitate or get it wrong, then refuse the sale or entry. 

"It's a tough battle out there with technology today," said Jay Manno, owner of Soho Burger Bar on Chippewa Street in New York. "The last thing you want is someone underage and irresponsible wrapping their car around a tree or hurting someone else or themselves."

Like all bar and liquor store owners, Manno wants nothing to do with minors leaving their premises and causing trouble. Fortunately, the authorities have recently been more active in developing solutions to combat underage drinking.

Learning how to spot fake IDs is just one of the many things that alcohol sellers/servers must learn to qualify for their job. It's a valuable skill since it can save the establishment and the minor from severe problems if an accident occurs due to an irresponsible sale. 

Avoid selling/serving alcohol to minors by obtaining your online alcohol seller/server certification that meets your state's requirements. 

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