The art of the fake ID
By Brian Hayes
You’re standing in line holding your six-pack of beer, your hand’s shaking, thinking to yourself, “Is this actually going to work?” You finally get up to the register and hand the woman at the counter your I.D. You put on your best McLovin’ smile as she looks over your picture and the date of birth stamped on that tiny piece of plastic. As she hands you back your I.D., you try not to let out a sigh of relief as she asks, “Cash or credit?” The secret? You’re not 21, and you just passed your first test with your brand new fake I.D.
Before the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, nearly all college students had access to alcohol. And while the drinking age is now 21, this doesn’t mean that students under the age limit aren’t drinking. College students find ways to obtain alcohol. If students don’t personally know someone who is older than 21 and will buy them alcohol, the next best step is to invest in a fake I.D.
A 2002 study done at Harvard University found that nearly 18 percent of underage students own and use false identification. One of the most common ways of obtaining fake identification is by taking someone’s old license.
“I couldn’t wait until my sister turned 21,” Tory,* a junior at Ithaca College, said. “It was almost like I turned 21 when she did because we look so similar. Now I can go to bars whenever I want.”
However, not all college students are able to inherit a fake I.D. Some students end up choosing to buy a fake online, although they risk getting scammed.
In a 2010 study done at the University of Missouri, 30 percent of students who had fake I.D.s were caught using them. These students face a variety of punishments, from simply not being served alcohol to having their I.D. confiscated and being fined hundreds of dollars.
The policy at Wegmans is that anyone purchasing alcohol must show some form of I.D., whether they are 21 or 91. “We don’t confiscate I.D.s even if we believe they are fake,” a manager at the Wegmans in Ithaca said. “All cashiers check with a manager if they are given an out-of-state license, and we refuse the right to sell alcohol if we don’t believe the person buying it is 21.”
Among several students interviewed around Ithaca College, the majority said they mostly just used their fake I.D.s to get into bars.
“It’s more fun to be able to go out to bars and socialize than just buy a bottle from the store,” Drew,* a freshman at IC, said. “You’re able to meet older people and just hang out as opposed to going to a big party that you know will probably get broken up anyway.”
One idea that was shared by several IC students interviewed was that now that they have the ability to purchase alcohol and get into bars, the drinking age doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore.
“I feel more responsible with how I drink now,” Pat* said. “Before I had my fake I.D., I bought large quantities of alcohol all at once and drank it quickly. I ended up spending more money than I wanted and didn’t always act smart with the choices I made. Now that I have my fake, I feel much more responsible with the way I drink.”
Underage college students will find any way they can to gain access to alcohol. While fake identification may be a way to beat the drinking age, is it really worth the risk?
“I like taking the risk,” Morgan,* a sophomore at IC said. “Having a fake I.D. has led me to have a lot of memorable experiences I wouldn’t have had [otherwise]. … I like taking the risk.”
* Names of students have been changed to protect anonymity.
Brian Hayes is sophomore biology major who is practicing his McLovin’ smile. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.