ISG Blog

How to Spot a Fake ID

Re-posted with permission from Campus Safety Magazine and edited.

Catch Fake IDs by Using the “FLAG” System

Identity theft is rampant, so if you ask for a customer’s ID as part of your business or campus procedure, you or your employees need to know what a fake ID looks like. If you don’t know and have done nothing to protect yourself, then shame on you. Identity thieves count on your lack of knowledge so they can use false identification cards (some even poorly made) to defraud you of your service and/or money.

And don’t think that identity theft is just a minor financial crime. The two worst cases of domestic terrorism in the United States (Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings) were both committed by suspects using fake IDs.

Many industries (hotel, retail, mortgage, escrow, property rental, healthcare, etc.) ask for identification, but don’t train their employees how to recognize a fake ID. There are more than 240 different types state government-issued IDs in the United States. Most states use the same security features, but they add their own twists. Some of these features can be seen with the naked eye, while others require some simple technology such as a UV light and a high-quality magnifying glass.

The California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control teaches a system called “FLAG” to check IDs. It stands for “Feel”, “Look”, “Ask” and “Give” back to the person or police. There are more than 25 different points to check in FLAG to be aware of on ID cards.

F is for ‘Feel’

There are some tactile security features you should be able to feel. First, do not accept an ID shown to you from inside a wallet window slot, which prevents you from touching it. Have the person take his or her ID out of their wallet so you can feel it.

When you are holding it in your hands, be mindful that ID thieves have learned to counterfeit some tactile features. Fortunately, the quality of these features is below state-issued identification cards. Focus on the quality. Even try scratching the card with your fingernail or a coin to see if tactile items come off or change easily. If they do, you’ve got a fake ID in your hands.

L is for ‘Look”

Look at the picture. Is the person standing in front of you the same person in the ID picture? This is very subjective. You will need to focus on the “Triangle of Recognition” area of the face (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and chin). The triangle is the area across the face from ear to ear and down to the bottom of the chin. Unless the person has had plastic surgery, these areas will not change dramatically over a period of time.

Hair, eye brows, eye color and facial hair can be changed. Faces can get thinner or heavier with weight gain or loss. However, the position of the ears and eyes will not usually change. Look for a difference that can’t be explained. For example, if the person standing in front of you has a dimple on the chin, but there is no dimple seen in the photo ID, then this should be considered a red flag. Dimple implant surgery is not a logical explanation.

Additionally, look at the signature. You do not have to be a handwriting expert to recognize a major difference in the signature on the card and on a document you have them sign in front of you. Can a person’s signature vary? Yes, but it could also be dramatically different because that person is using an ID that does not belong to them.

A is for ‘Ask’

Bouncers at bars are good at asking questions and catching the fake ID holder in a lie. For example, the fake ID will probably have a fake date of birth. This new fake birth date might fall under a different Zodiac sign than the suspect’s real birth date Zodiac sign. You might ask the suspect “What is your Zodiac sign?” The suspect might know his fake date of birth because he memorized it but probably won’t know his new Zodiac sign. Similar questions related to the address or other data listed could also be used to catch them off guard. Watch facial expressions or stutters in answers which could reveal potential fraud.

G is for ‘Give It Back or Give It to the Police’

If you have checked all the security features to the best your ability and believe that the person in front of you is the same person in the picture, give the card back to them and continue doing business with them. If you believe you have a fake ID, you can seize the card.

However, do not get into the business of confiscating fake IDs and possibly being assaulted over it. We suggest that you photocopy the ID card if you can and return it to the suspect. Also, are you in a safe environment (your office with fellow employees vs. the suspect’s house)? Can you ask for a secondary form of ID if you are not sure? If you want to file a fraud crime report afterward, the photocopy of the ID will be very helpful to the police investigation.

These Steps Are Just a Start

Every 2 seconds, an identity is stolen in the United States, reports CNN. Additionally, 46 percent of all identity theft crimes are committed with a fake ID. If every industry were trained how to spot a phony identification card, almost half of the identity theft crimes would be stopped.

The police can’t investigate every identity theft crime and recover your loss. However, you can take the steps to train your staff or employees and protect yourself and your campus. Or, you can continue to ask for IDs and blindly accept them as real. But if you get fooled and become another victim, the onus is on you.

Contact your local ISG dealer today to take steps in not only catching fake ID cards, but to make sure that your organization’s ID cards cannot be altered or counterfeited. If you can eliminate the ability of counterfeiters to use your cards, you have already done your part in reducing fake ID crimes.


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