Fake IDs have become a common commodity these days. With the advancement of technology, it has become increasingly easier to produce high-quality fake IDs that can easily pass for real ones. This is a concerning issue because it poses a significant threat to national security and public safety. Fake IDs are commonly used by minors to buy alcohol and cigarettes, and even gain access to clubs and bars. In addition, they are also used by criminals to commit various illegal activities. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to spot a fake ID. 

Fake IDs are commonly used to allow the bearer to gain entry where they would normally not be permitted.  Bars, nightclubs and other establishments that require a person to be of a certain age are prime targets.  Generally, the person will be attempting to gain entry in order to purchase alcohol or tobacco products.  It is the responsibility of the business to ensure that patrons are in possession of a valid and accurate identification prior to entry.  Many states have different requirements in terms of which id’s are acceptable.  Local and state laws dictate which forms of identification are to be allowed, but most have a few laws in common.  The use of a fake ID or a valid ID belonging to another individual is prohibited nationwide. 

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to spot a fake ID.


Here are some of the common ways to identify fraudulent IDs.

There are three basic types of ID fraud: Borrowed, Fake, and Altered. Modern and enhanced security features have changed the way that ID fraud occurs. Borrowed IDs are by far the most common method of ID fraud, followed by Fake IDs, and more rarely Altered IDs. Here are some of the ways you can spot problems.

Borrowed IDs – The Most Common Form of ID Fraud

Borrowed IDs are now the most common form of ID fraud. It is estimated that 95% of all ID fraud originates with a borrowed ID. Minors get borrowed IDs from several sources: they use the ID of an older sibling, an older friend, or get an ID of a stranger through their friends and friend networks.

Here are some suggestions for spotting the borrowed ID:

  • Compare the photograph on the ID with the person standing in front of you and question discrepancies (the cardholder counts on the fact that a store clerk will be too busy to inspect the ID closely).
  • Review and compare other physical descriptors like height and weight.
  • Look for signs of duplicate cards, such as “DUPL” stamp.
  • Watch for expired cards.
  • Ask questions!
    • Ask the cardholder to verify personal data on the card.
    • Obtain a signature and compare it to the one on the card.
    • Ask the cardholder what their middle initial stands for.
    • Purposely mispronounce their name or misstate their middle initial to see if the cardholder instinctively gives the correct information.
  • Look for signs of deceit.
    • Does the cardholder avoid eye contact, exhibit unusual hesitation when answering, behave nervously, attempt to intimidate, or do their eyes track upwards (as if to recall or make something up)?

Forged/Fake IDs

In an effort to keep up with the modern security enhancements of real IDs, manufacturers of faked IDs are using advanced technology to create very “real” looking fakes. The internet has become a prime resource to purchase these IDs. The best way to spot fakes is to do a visual and physical examination of the ID in question, and to be familiar with what a real ID in your community looks like.

  • Often, fake IDs appear to be issued by a state other than where the ID will be used, hoping that the person checking the ID is unfamiliar with out-of-state IDs. For example, the presenter will tender a Texas ID to get into a bar in Louisiana. An ID reference guide can be purchased containing pictures of different versions of IDs from every state, including foreign countries, as well as identifying the important security features to assist with identifying fake IDs.
  • Use a feel test. Genuine IDs are not layered and are made of durable plastic. As a result, genuine IDs do not unravel or buckle. Fake IDs are often made with inferior products and layered. Fake IDs buckle or begin to peel apart when manipulated. Bending the edge or attempting to peel apart the ID can improve the chances of identifying a fake ID.
  • Compare security features. Holograms should flash in and out on a genuine ID. Look out for holograms that remain consistently illuminated, regardless of how much light is reflected on the card. This will indicate a fake ID. Also, be familiar with the holograms on Louisiana’s license. There are four images of the State of Louisiana. Any other hologram on a purported Louisiana license is evidence that it is a fake.
  • Inspect both the front and back of the ID. Because often the maker of the fake ID does not put as much effort into the back, the back should be inspected as carefully as the front.
  • Swipe the magnetic strip. If the ID is genuine, the magnetic strip, once swiped, should reveal information regarding the presenter’s age, date of birth, etc. Most fake IDs, even high quality fake IDs, will fail to recognize the ID or return a message that the ID cannot be verified when the magnetic strip is swiped.

How to Spot Front Forged IDs

  • Basic ID scanners can identify whether an ID’s barcode is scannable and/or has information encoded. This process is called ID parsing, and it is the quickest way to identify a front forged ID.
  • In most cases, IDs should have rounded edges all the way around. If the ID presented to you has square edges or its edges feel ragged, the ID may have a false front.

How to spot a fake military ID

Military ID’s are also subject to being faked and there are plenty of websites that offer this service in the name of “Cosplay” or “Hollywood”.  Nevertheless, the resulting ID’s are pretty convincing.  The Department of Defense has recently changed the form and appearance of the ID cards issued to members of the military.  An example is shown here:

Sample of the Next Generation Uniformed Services ID card.

There are several validation areas on this card and tampering is more evident.  The punishments today for using a fake military ID card are very harsh, so their use in gaining access to drinking establishments is rare.  More commonly, the older green and pink military ID’s are modified and used. 

 How to spot a fake Social Security Card

A Social Security Card is an essential document that is used to identify individuals in the United States. It contains a unique Social Security Number (SSN), which is used for various purposes, including applying for jobs, opening bank accounts, and obtaining government benefits. Unfortunately, like other forms of identification, Social Security Cards can be counterfeited.

fake ssn card

The first step to identifying a fake Social Security Card is to know what a real one looks like. A real Social Security Card has various physical features that make it difficult to replicate. Some of these features include:

  • The card is made of sturdy, durable paper that is difficult to tear or damage.
  • The text on the card is clear and legible, with no smudged or blurry letters.
  • The card has a unique design, with a red and blue border and the words “Social Security” printed in blue.

These physical features are difficult to replicate, and therefore, a fake Social Security Card may lack some or all of these features.

Visual Inspection

After verifying the physical features of the Social Security Card, the next step is to perform a visual inspection. This involves examining the card’s text, layout, and overall appearance. Some of the things to look for during a visual inspection include:

  • The name on the card matches the name of the individual presenting it.
  • The SSN on the card is correct and matches the individual’s information.
  • The text on the card is aligned correctly, with no overlapping letters or numbers.
  • The font used on the card is consistent throughout.

UV Light Inspection

Similar to a real ID, many real Social Security Cards have features that are only visible under UV light. Therefore, performing a UV light inspection is another way to spot a fake Social Security Card. Some of the things to look for during a UV light inspection include:

  • The blue and red borders on the card are visible under UV light.
  • The text on the card is visible under UV light.
  • The SSN on the card is visible under UV light.

Altered Fake IDs

Modern IDs are much harder to alter than in the past. For example, given the advancement of ID printing methods and the use of specialized plastic material, altering an IDs photo is extremely difficult as is rarely seen on newer forms of ID. The current trend in ID altering is to change the date of birth, “Under 18 Until,” or “Under 21 Until” dates. The most common technique to alter IDs is to use clear fingernail polish or superglue and write or print new dates on top of the polish or glue. So to spot altered IDs look for the following:

  • Check for small raised spots or small shiny spots over the date of birth or “Under Until” dates.
  • Check for changes in font or coloration
  • Different types of fonts on the card
  • Smudging or bleeding of colors on the card
  • Raised spots or ridges on the cards

Ways to double check IDs

– Check birth date, expiration date, and photograph.
– If out of state license, check “ID Checkit guide” for style of particular state.
– If the identification is a duplicate, request second form of identification.
– Check eye and hair color, weight and height.
– Check restrictions on license. Ex: “Minor”.
– Check the identification itself for physical alterations or possible tampering. (glue lines,
bumpy surface, overlays, etc.)
– If the person is wearing an item or jewelry with initials, check the initials against the
– Be mindful of other people communicating with the person. They may slip up and call
the person by a different name than that on the I.D.
– Quiz the person on personal data included on the I.D. – They should be able to
respond without hesitation if it is their true information.
– Learn and remember the zodiac signs. This can be an extremely clever way to
discover a fake I.D. Almost EVERYONE knows their zodiac sign, even if they don’t
believe in astrology.

Physical inspection of the ID.

  • Check the card’s rigidity. A fake ID will often have different weight and/or thickness of a real ID. Gently squeeze the ID to determine if the card feels right.
  • Check the card’s edges. Almost all IDs have rounded edges around the entire ID. If the edges feel square it is possible the card has a false front.
  • Check and feel the front and back of the ID. Feel for bumps, ridges and irregularities.
  • Check the IDs corners. A real IDs corners cannot be split or peeled back. If you can peel back or split the IDs corners with your nail, it is likely a fake ID.
  • Visual inspection of the ID.
  • Do a general visual examination of the overall appearance, fonts and coloration patterns, and look for any known security features that should be present on valid IDs.
  • Don’t forget to examine the back of the ID. Creators of fake IDs take great care to replicate the front of the ID but put less effort into the back.

How to Spot a Fake ID by State

illustrated ID card with the word 'Fake' stamped on it in red

Train your staff on how to spot a fake ID in your state by familiarizing them with your state’s ID security features. Here are the top things to look out for:

  1. Holograms
    IDs have holographic images that become visible when held to the light. Each state has a specific image and knowing yours will help you spot fake IDs.
  2. Cheap Laminate
    State’s apply a professional laminate on their IDs to seal their UV imagery and protect the IDs. To see if the ID being presented to you has professional-grade laminate, gently bend the ID card into a “U” shape. When bent, inexpensive, nonprofessional laminate will bubble.
  3. Laser Perforation
    IDs have tiny laser perforated holes forming pictures that aren’t visible to the naked eye until held to direct light. The laser perforated images are different for each state.
  4. Laser Embossing
    Many states emboss their IDs with a laser to raise the plastic on the front of their IDs. The laser embossing doesn’t alter the back of the ID, but it allows you to feel the ID and see if the embossing is present/matches standards.
  5. UV Imagery
    While IDs’ UV imagery varies by the state, most states include a second, lighter image that only appears when exposed to UV light.

Over the last decade, U.S. states and Canadian provinces have made significant security upgrades to their drivers’ licenses and identification cards. While some of these features are only visible with special equipment (UV light source, magnification) other security features can be detected by the naked eye, by touch, or by simply tilting a card or holding it up to a light source. The infographic at the bottom of this webpage shows some of these easily verifiable features of drivers’ licenses and identification cards.

There is no universal standard for what security features are used on IDs and where they are located on the ID.

Per federal law, the SSN has been phased out as a driver license number. However, some states may still have a few of the older DL documents with an SSN in circulation, as indicated.  The following chart shows you the format of driver’s license numbers for each state.


State License Format

Alabama’s driver’s license shows the state’s capitol building, which is located in Montgomery. The license has 7 or 8 numbers.

Alabama Driver License

Alabama Dept. of Public Safety


The official state motto of Alaska, “North to the Future,” appears on the state’s license. The highest peak in Alaska — and North America — Denali, is also seen in the background. The license has 7 numbers

REAL ID Compliant O21

Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles


Arizona’s driver’s license shows a desert landscape in the background — the state has four different deserts. The license has one alpha and 8 numbers.

azdriverlicense travel id

Arizona Department of Transportation


The Arkansas driver’s license is covered in diamonds that represent the Crater of Diamonds State Park, where visitors can mine for diamonds themselves. The license has 9 numbers or a social security number.

arkansas drivers license

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

Source: Arkansas State Parks


California’s driver’s license has many references to iconic state symbols, like the California gold rush, the California grizzly bear, and the state flower, the California poppy. The license has 1 alpha and 7 numbers.

california drivers license

California Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: California State Library


Drivers in Colorado carry a license that bears the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River. The license has 9 numbers.

colorado drivers license

Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles


The Connecticut driver’s license shows the capitol building in Hartford. The license has 9 numbers.

connecticut drivers license

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Connecticut Office of Tourism


Delaware’s licenses have the state’s capitol building in Dover, as well as the state’s seal. The seal contains a farmer, a soldier, an ox, and a ship. The license has between 1 and 7 numbers.

delaware drivers license

Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Delaware Government Information Center

District of Columbia

Washington, DC is famous for its cherry blossoms — there’s even a festival dedicated to them — which is why they adorn the area’s license. The license has 7 numbers.

washington dc license
District of Columbia. 


Source: Destination DC


Florida, the Sunshine State, has a beach scene to honor its thousands of miles of coastline. The license has 1 alpha and 12 numbers.

florida drivers license

Florida Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: World Atlas


Georgia’s license bears the state’s official fruit, the peach. The license has 9 numbers or a social security number.

georgia drivers license

Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Georgia Secretary of State


Hawaii’s license has a giant rainbow to represent the state’s nickname, the Rainbow State. The license has an “H” plus 8 numbers.

hawaii drivers licesnes

Hawaii DMV

Source: Maui Magazine


Idaho is known as the Gem State because “72 different precious and semi-precious gemstones have been found there.” The license has 3 alpha and 6 numbers.

idaho drivers licesne

Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Mental Floss


Illinois is where President Abraham Lincoln called home for most of his political life, which is why his bust is prominently shown on the driver’s license. The license has 1 alpha and 11 numbers.

illinois drivers license

Illinois Department of Vehicles

Source: History Channel


The Indiana license shows the capitol building in Indianapolis, as well as an Indy 500 race car, as of July 2019. The license has 10 numbers.

indiana drivers license

Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: The Drive


Drivers in Iowa carry a license that has the state capitol building in Des Moines, as well as the state’s motto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” The license has 3 numbers, two alpha and 4 numbers.

iowa drivers licnese

Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Des Moines Register


Kansas’ license pays tribute to its farmers, the Oregon Trail (which ran through Kansas), Native Americans, and its state animal, the American buffalo. The license has a “K” and 8 numbers.

kansas new id

Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Kansas Historical Society and History Channel


The Kentucky driver’s license has the state’s motto — “United we stand, divided we fall” — and the state seal on it. The license has 1 alpha and 8 numbers.

kentucky drivers licesne

Kentucky DMV


The Louisiana driver’s license depicts the capitol building in Baton Rouge. The license has a zero and 8 numbers.

louisiana drivers license

Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Visit Baton Rouge


Maine is commonly called the Lighthouse State, as it still has 65 historical lighthouses spread out over its thousands of miles of coastline.  The license has 7 numbers.

maine drivers license

Maine Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Visit Maine


Maryland residents are exceptionally proud of their flag, which is why it’s on the state’s driver’s license not once, but twice. There’s also a blue crab, another Maryland symbol. The license has 1 alpha and 12 numbers.

maryland drivers license

Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: The Baltimore Sun


The Massachusetts driver’s license has the Massachusetts statehouse, located in Boston, as well as the state bird, the black-capped chickadee. The license has an “S” and 8 numbers.

massachusetts drivers license

Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts


The iconic Mackinac Bridge, which connects the two peninsulas of Michigan, is shown on the state’s licenses. The license has 1 alpha and 12 numbers.

michigan drivers license

Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Mackinac Bridge Authority


Minnesota licenses show a person canoeing on a lake — which makes sense as the state is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The license has 1 alpha and 12 numbers.

minnesota drivers license

Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Visit Minnesota


The Mississippi driver’s license shows the state’s memorable swirly logo, and the capitol building in Jackson. The license has 9 numbers.

mississippi drivers license

Mississippi Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: MS.GOV


The Missouri driver’s license has the state’s official seal in the background, which features two grizzly bears. The license has 1 alpha and 9 numbers.

missouri drivers license

Missouri DMV

Source: Missouri Secretary of State


As one of the eight mountain states in the US, Montana’s licenses feature a mountainous landscape. The license has 13 numbers.

montana drivers license

Montana Department of Justice – Motor Vehicles Division

Source: World Atlas


Nebraska’s driver’s license proudly features the state capitol building in the city of Lincoln. The license has 1 alpha and 8 numbers.

nebraska drivers license

Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Nebraska State Capitol 


On Nevada driver’s license, you can see the state capitol building and the state’s animal: the desert bighorn sheep. The license has 12 numbers.

nevada drivers license

Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

New Hampshire

If you look closely, you can see New Hampshire’s state flower, the purple lilac, on the state’s driver’s license. The license, after 10/11/2017 has 3 alpha and 8 numbers. Prior to 10/11/2017, 2 numbers, 3 alpha and 5 numbers.

new hampshire drivers license
New Hampshire. 

New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: NHPR

New Jersey

The dome of New Jersey’s statehouse in Trenton can be seen on its driver’s licenses. The license has 1 alpha and 14 numbers.

new jersey drivers license
New Jersey. 

Mel Evans/ Getty

Source: New Jersey State House Tours

New Mexico

New Mexico’s licenses feature the state’s desert landscape. The license has 9 numbers.

new mexico
New Mexico. 

New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division

New York

New York’s licenses prominently feature the state’s official seal, which has a bald eagle, a shield, and two women. The Statue of Liberty can also be seen. The license has 9 numbers.

new york license
New York. 

New York Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: NYSED

North Carolina

North Carolina’s state capitol building is located in Raleigh, and it’s featured on the state’s driver’s license. The license has 12 numbers.

north carolina drivers license
North Carolina. 

North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Visit Raleigh

North Dakota

In North Dakota, the driver’s licenses feature the Nokota horse, the state’s honorary equine. The license has 3 alpha and 6 numbers.

north dakota license
North Dakota. 


Source: North Dakota Studies


Ohio’s licenses have the state seal, which depicts the Scioto River and wheat fields. The license has two alpha and 6 numbers.

ohio license

Ohio BMV


On Oklahoma’s licenses, you can read, “The land we belong to is grand,” which are lyrics from the musical “Oklahoma!” The license has 1 alpha and 9 numbers.

oklahoma licenses

Oklahoma Department of Public Safety

Source: State Symbols USA


Oregon’s licenses feature the state’s capitol building, which is located in the city of Salem. The license has 1 alpha and 6 or 7 numbers.

oregon license

Oregon Department of Transportation

Source: Oregon State Legislature


Pennsylvania’s licenses show the state’s coat of arms, which depicts two horses. The license has 8 numbers.

Pennsylvania license

Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: Philly Voice

Rhode Island

The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in Jamestown is featured in the background of Rhode Island’s licenses. The license has 7 numbers or a “V” and 6 numbers.

rhode island license
Rhode Island. 

Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles

Source: Providence Journal

South Carolina

South Carolina licenses feature the statehouse in Columbia. The license has 6-11 numbers.

south carolina license
South Carolina. 

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: South Carolina Legislature

South Dakota

South Dakota’s licenses feature the state’s most popular landmark: Mount Rushmore. The license has 8 numbers or a social security number.

south dakota license
South Dakota. 

South Dakota Department of Public Safety

Source: Travel Channel


Tennessee highlights Nashville’s skyline and the capitol building on its licenses. The license has 9 numbers. Old licenses have 7-8 numbers.

Tennessee license

Tennessee Department of Driver Services

Source: Tennessee State Museum


On Texas’ licenses, you can see the state’s capitol building, which can be found in Austin. The license has 9 numbers.

texas drivers license

Texas Department of Public Safety

Source: Visit Texas


Utah’s capitol building in Salt Lake City is depicted in the background of its licenses. The license has 4-10 numbers.

utah license

Utah Department of Public Safety


Vermont’s driver’s license has shimmering butterflies on it when you expose the card to ultraviolet lights. The license has 8 numbers or 7 numbers and the letter “A”.

vermont license

Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: NBC 5


If you look closely, you can see the pillars of Virginia’s capitol building on the state’s licenses. The license has 1 alpha and 8 numbers.

virginia drivers license

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles


At the bottom of Washington’s licenses, you can find a small depiction of the state’s tree, the western hemlock. The license has 7 alpha, 3 numbers and 2 alphanumerics.

washginton license

Washington State Department of Licensing

Source: Washington State Legislature

West Virginia

West Virginia is considered one of the most scenic states in the US, so it features a picturesque landscape on its license. The license has 7 digits, 1-2 alpha and 5-6 numbers.

west virginia license
West Virginia. 

West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Source: USA Today


The Wisconsin driver’s license has the capitol building and the state’s flag featured side by side. The license has 1 alpha and 13 numbers.

Wisconsin license

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Source: Wisconsin Capitol


Wyoming’s official symbol is a depiction of a bucking horse and rider. You can find that symbol on the state’s licenses. The license has 9 numbers.

wyoming license

Wyoming Department of Transportation

Source: Wyoming Secretary of State

Legal forms of identification in Louisiana:

Under Louisiana State Law, only the following (5) forms of identification constitute
“legal” proof of age:
Valid and current:
(1) Louisiana driver’s license which contains a photo of the same person presenting the

(2) Driver’s license of another state which contains a photo of the same person
presenting the identification.

(3) Special identification card issued by the State of Louisiana containing a photo of the
person presenting the identification.

(4) A passport or visa issued by the federal government or another country that contains
a permanently attached photograph and date of birth of the person presenting the

(5) Military or federal identification card issued by the federal government containing a
photo and date of birth of the person presenting the identification.

When in doubt, it is a good idea to get a second opinion of a co-worker or manager.  If still in doubt, it is acceptable to refuse entry.  It is not recommended that you seize or retain the fake identification and/or detain the person presenting it.  Check your local laws as it pertains to your responsibilities in reporting these activities to law enforcement. 

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