BERKELEY (CBS 5) – Chinese companies appear to be flooding the U.S. with very realistic looking fake drivers licenses, and according to both local and federal law enforcement it is a growing concern.
The fake IDs are showing up in bars and clubs all over the Bay Area and the state according to Chris Albrecht with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “14-, 15-,16-year olds are regularly found in possession,” said Albrecht.
Albrecht keeps a collection of fakes and noted old-fashioned detection techniques aren’t enough any more. “Counterfeiting has become a much more sophisticated business and counterfeiters are, in fact, trying to mimic a lot of the security features that are in place,” he said.
At bars like Kip’s in Berkeley where IDs show up from all over the country, manager John Boyle considers himself an expert “It’s easier to get through TSA than to get through our door,” he said.
But sometimes the fake ids are look just as good or better than the real ones, said Boyle. The most popular fakes these days: Arizona drivers licenses.
“From my understanding a lot of them are coming from China,” said Boyle.
UC Berkeley police recently confiscated a shipment of fake IDs from China. “We were contacted by the Department of Homeland Security,” said Lt. Marc Decoulode.
Decoulode said the feds intercepted the package, containing 24 fake drivers licenses, which was headed to a campus fraternity. “They put their true name and a false date of birth so even if someone were to ask for a second piece of ID, like a university student ID, the name and the photo would match the fraudulent ID.
Police said the Berkeley IDs were purchased through a website which advertised realistic-looking drivers licenses from a dozen different states, though none from California.
Patrick, a CBS 5 production assistant, went to the site to order one of the fake IDs. Following directions on the site he stood for a photograph, took a snapshot of his own signature, and uploaded the photos to an order form. “It was almost too simple, it was really easy,” said Patrick.
A day later came directions to wire money to a Demai Xu in the city of Fuzhou, China.
Which he did, sending $200-cash from a Western Union outlet. Two weeks later the package arrived. Inside, hidden underneath the fake bottom of a silverware set: 2 Arizona drivers licenses. They felt real, seemed well made, complete with holograms and a magnetic strip.
So how are the counterfeiters getting away with it? The ABC’s Chris Albrecht told us: “With blind shipments and that kind of thing, it becomes very difficult to investigate thoroughly.”
But it’s just the kind of case the U.S. Postal service does investigate. “There’s probably going to be a number of federal and state agencies that will be very interested in this,” said postal inspector Jeff Fitch.
He said the packaging alone was suspicious. “They’re declaring it as jewelry and we’ve got a fork and a spoon here and the documents are probably underneath so they obviously know what they are doing is wrong.”
The concern is that these IDs could be used for a lot more than getting into bars. “ID theft, ID fraud. Sky’s the limit,” said Fitch.
Kip’s manager John Boyle agreed that the implications are serious. Though Boyle noticed some irregularities in the IDs that told him they were fake, he claimed doormen at most bars and clubs would never notice and neither would the TSA. Boyle said all he can do is play it safe, and when in doubt he just says ‘no.’
The TSA declined to comment for this story. The California DMV couldn’t comment either about other states’ drivers licenses, but told us the new California driver’s license, which has enhanced security features, has not been counterfeited to their knowledge.
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