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Help Detecting Fake IDs

Checking Identifications

The law states that a customer must be at least 21 years of age to purchase alcohol. There is no legal requirement that a customer show identification, but the best way to verify the customer's age is to request picture identification.

Types of Acceptable ID

The acceptable types of identification for determining age are: valid driver's license issued by any state or Washington, D.C., armed forces identification card, U.S. passport, foreign government visa, or a valid photo identification card issued by Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. (3 VAC 5-50-20)

Elements of Acceptable ID

In order to be acceptable, an ID should include: photograph of bearer, signature, height of bearer, date of birth and expiration date. (3 VAC 5-50-20)

Unacceptable IDs for Purchasing Alcohol

College/university ID, expired ID, social security card, government work ID, resident alien card, green card, international driver's license, INS border crosser card and INS worker's authorization card.

Virginia IDs

The images described below for each ID can be found at the Department of Motor Vehicles Web site.

A driver's license issued to someone under 21 will be in a vertical format with printing in red to the right of the picture. The license states in red printing that he or she is "UNDER 18 UNTIL" the date given and "UNDER 21 UNTIL" the date given. The driver's picture is located on the bottom left side of the ID. A blue band crosses the top of the license with "Virginia" embedded in it.

A photo identification card issued to someone under 21 will be in a vertical format with the same "UNDER 18 & 21 UNTIL" dates in red next to the picture. However, the picture on a photo identification card is on the bottom right side of the ID. A purple band crosses the top of the identification card with "Virginia" embedded in it.

A driver's license issued to someone over 21 will be in a horizontal format and will not have any red printing. The picture will be on the bottom left side of the ID. In some cases, however, people who are 21 and over may still possess a driver's license in a vertical format. If the license is in a vertical format, carefully read the red "UNDER 18 & 21 UNTIL" dates to determine if the person is of legal age.

A photo identification card issued to someone over 21 will be in a horizontal format and will not have any red printing. The picture will be on the bottom right side of the ID. In some cases, however, people who are 21 and over may still possess an identification card in a vertical format. If the identification card is in a vertical format, carefully read the red "UNDER 18 & 21 UNTIL" dates to determine if the person is of legal age.

If a person attempting to purchase alcohol or tobacco presents a vertical license to you, look extra hard! Carefully read the red printing to determine if the person is of legal age!

Second Forms of ID

Used only as tools * Compare them to the first ID * Don't sell if unsure

Examples may include a credit card, social security card, student ID, and a fishing or hunting license. Be careful when accepting any ID as a second form. There are people who will fake another form of ID. Once you have the first type of ID, keep it and then ask for another one. Hold them both together and compare to see if they match.

Types of Fake IDs

  • False ID - manufactured or computer generated
  • Altered ID - valid identification that is altered to change critical information
  • Borrowed ID - valid identification used by another person

Where do they come from?

  • Internet
  • Mail-order
  • Self-manufacture
  • Friends
  • Purchase from others
  • Purchase from other manufacturer

F-L-A-G is a simple way to remember how to properly check IDs

F - Feel

  • Have the customer remove the ID from their wallet or plastic holder. You may see another ID in their wallet.
  • Feel for raised edges, glue lines or bumpy surfaces by the photo or birth date. Uneven surfaces often indicate tampering. Feel for cut-out or pasted information.
  • Check the thickness of the ID. Check to see if it was re-laminated after changing some of the information.

L - Look

  • Photograph - Does it look like the person in front of you? Hairstyles and makeup can change, so focus your attention on the person's eyes, nose and chin. When checking men with beards or mustaches, cover the facial hair portion of the photo and concentrate on the eyes, nose or ears.
  • Height and weight - Do they reasonably match the person?
  • State seal - Is it on the ID and is it in the correct place?
  • Date of birth - Is the person old enough? Figure the math or look at the "Under 21 Until" portion of the ID.
  • Age on ID vs. Appearance - Does the person in front of you match the age on the ID?
  • Expiration date - Is the ID expired? Expired IDs are unacceptable.
  • Lamination - Are the cuts or corners/edges straight or crooked?

A - Ask

  • Ask for their middle name, zodiac sign or year of high school graduation. If someone has to think about his or her sign or when they graduated, the ID may be false.
  • Ask the birth month. If the person responds with a number rather than the name of the month, they may be lying.
  • If the customer is with a companion, ask the companion to quickly tell you the customer's name. Any hesitation may indicate deception.
  • Ask the customer to sign his/her name and then compare the signatures to the ID. Sometimes if the ID is false, the customer will sign his or her true name, rather than the one on the ID.

G - Give Back

  • Give the ID back to the customer and make the sale if the ID is valid.
  • If the ID is fake or altered, you must return the ID.

Additional Resource

The Drivers License Guide Co. publishes an annual edition of the ID Checking Guide that helps retailers and law enforcement agencies identify fake IDs. Every valid driver's license format is shown in actual size and full color for all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. You can order the guide from their Web site or by calling 800-227-8827.

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