How to spot a fake ID: use these 6 techniques to ensure you don’t serve minors.
The legal drinking age in the United States is 21. Can you easily tell if someone is old enough to buy alcohol? For licensed businesses, guessing someone’s age and accidentally serving someone under 21 can lead to serious consequences. Alcohol servers, alcohol sellers and bartenders must be prepared to confirm a person’s age before serving them alcohol, but confirming that a person is using a valid ID may be easier said than done.
Be equipped with the right knowledge to properly inspect IDs with our top tips for how to spot a fake ID.
1. Check the birthdate
The most important factor to check on an ID is the person’s birthdate. You need to ensure that the individual is 21 or older. An easy way to calculate someone’s age:
- Take their birth year and add 20
- Add 1 more
- Compare the number to the current year
If the calculated year is before the current year, the person is over 21. If the calculated year is after the current year, then they are not 21 and you are not legally allowed to serve them alcohol.
Also remember that the person’s birthdate is still a factor if the calculated year is the same as the current year! That means they will turn 21 during the current year, but you must confirm if their birthday has already passed before serving them.TIP: If a person’s birth year starts with 19XX, they are most likely 21 or older already. If the year starts with 20XX, they are most likely underage. With either scenario, be sure to complete the calculation, check their actual birthdate and review the ID for signs of tampering.
2. Look for any alterations
After confirming, based on the birthdate on the ID, that the person is of legal drinking age, alcohol servers must also check to ensure the person isn’t using a fake ID.
Look for any signs that information on the card has been changed or removed. The surface of the ID should be smooth. Feel the surface to see if there are any bumps where information may have been added or removed.
A common forger technique is to poke pinholes in the lamination of a valid ID to insert substances like bleach. These substances are used to erase information on the ID, so any IDs with pinholes in them should never be accepted.
Most government IDs also add anti-tampering features to ensure their validity. For example, some IDs have security features that are only visible using a UV light. Check for these security features if your business has a device to do so.
3. Review the fonts used
The fonts, including numbers, should be consistent throughout the whole ID. Bartenders, alcohol servers and alcohol sellers should question the validity of an ID if numbers seem to have been cut out our pasted onto the ID, or if there are different fonts being used.
4. Check the photo quality
Unusually low-quality photos on an ID could mean that it is fake.
Check that the features of the person in the photo match that of the customer. Remember that certain features such as hair color and hairstyle can often change, so compare features that can’t be as easily altered like the shape of the person’s nose, chin or eyes.
5. Remove from the wallet/plastic holder
If a customer doesn’t remove their ID from their wallet or plastic holder, ask them to do so. This allows alcohol servers to closely examine the ID for any alterations or tampering. If a person is using a card, does it feel too thick or too thin?
6. Check the back of the card
The back of the ID is more commonly overlooked by forgers and may not be as carefully reproduced, which is why checking the format on the back of the card is a great validation method.
Should alcohol servers and bartenders estimate age?
It’s important to understand that you cannot determine a person’s age solely by their looks. For bartenders, alcohol sellers and alcohol servers, this is especially important when checking ID as people under the legal drinking age could use different tactics to get served. They could try to use a fake ID, use the ID of a different person or even try to look older than they are so that alcohol servers won’t check their ID.
When checking ID, closely examine the photo to make sure the person in the photo is the customer. People might also use the way they dress or do their hair and makeup to appear older. Since appearances can be misleading, also note the customer’s behavior while you check their ID and ask yourself questions like:
- How old does this customer seem to be?
- Do they seem nervous or unsure?
- Are they avoiding eye contact?
What should you do if you suspect someone is using a fake ID?
If you suspect that a customer is using a fake ID, then:
- Ask them to verify information while you are still holding their ID. It’s better to ask them unusual questions instead of asking for information they could just memorize off of the ID. Examples include:
- What’s your astrological sign?
- What year did you graduate high school?
- What’s your zip code?
- Ask them to sign their name so that you can compare it to the signature on the ID.
- Ask for another ID.
If, after all of these techniques, you are still unsure of the validity of the ID, remember that you have the right to refuse service to customers.
What are the consequences of serving alcohol to a minor?
Not only do you have the right to refuse service, you could also face serious consequences if authorities find out that you have served alcohol to a minor. It is illegal for alcohol servers, alcohol sellers and bartenders to serve alcohol to anyone under 21 years old and they could face jail time for breaking alcohol service laws.
The business could also face consequences. An establishment could be penalized by the liquor authority if owners, operators or employees, including alcohol servers and bartenders, break any alcohol laws. Administrative penalties include fines, license suspension or even permanent license revocation.
One of your biggest responsibilities as a bartender, alcohol seller or alcohol server is to ensure that you don’t serve alcohol to minors. There shouldn’t be any doubts about whether a person is of legal drinking age when you serve them. Keep these tips in mind when checking ID and understand that you have the right to refuse service if you continue to have doubts about the validity of an ID.
Learn more about your responsibilities and rights as an alcohol server, and gain the tools you need to provide the best and safest service for your customers by getting your Alcohol Server / Seller Training with Userve.