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Andy McWhorter

Astra Ad 1 Panther Cash Screen Florida Tech SFSYpwqWith a new freshman class settling into Tuscaloosa and another football season right around the corner, local businesses and law enforcement are facing the challenge of a fresh batch of fake IDs.

Pa Best January Bars Dive 10 In The Updated Philadelphia Last With the technology used to create these IDs becoming ever more sophisticated, bars and police officers are having to watch out for quality fakes with extra vigilance.

Erin Childress, a manager at Buffalo Phil’s on the Strip, said servers and bartenders have had to work harder in recent years to detect fake IDs and avoid the costly fines associated with selling alcohol to minors.

“In the past four or five years, they’ve gotten a lot better,” Childress said. “We’re having to work a lot harder to study these IDs.”

Sgt. Brent Blankley of the Tuscaloosa Police Department declined to comment specifically on how fake IDs have gotten more sophisticated but pointed toward better technology as the root cause.

“Any time you have better printers and more technology, people are going to find better ways to make everything look more and more real,” Blankley said.

There are many sources underage students seek out to attain fake IDs, including websites like ID Chief and online services that claim to make fake IDs in China, where forgery and copyright laws are somewhat more lax. But a far simpler and surer option for minors looking for a fake ID is their fellow students. While attempts were made to find and speak with those who make and sell fake IDs in Tuscaloosa, no calls were returned and all leads turned up short.

“You do have people make them outside,” Blankley said of the market for fake IDs at the University. “There are students who actually make them.”

One such UA student, James William Boswell, was recently indicted for his role in a fake ID ring being run out of the University of Georgia. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the ring was headed by two UGA roommates who provided door-to-door fake ID services for $50 to $100 each. Boswell, one of only three non-UGA students to be indicted as part of the ring, provided sales and delivery services.

Cathy Andreen, director of Media Relations for The University of Alabama, said the University was not involved in the investigation that led to the indictments for fake ID trafficking.

Like in many college towns, there are often reports of fake IDs being used and distributed in Tuscaloosa, so bars and supermarkets continue to watch for fakes. While bars may have higher incidences of fake ID use, Vincent Vacca, store manager of Publix on the Strip, said clerks at Publix rarely see fake IDs.

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“We check religiously, so we don’t see them that often,” Vacca said. “We get checked constantly by the ABC Board.”

However, Childress said Buffalo Phil’s sees fakes four or five times a night on a typical weekend.

“It’s pretty much all the time,” Childress said. “Football season and right before are the worst.”

Blankley said their officers see fake IDs come and go in fairly predictable patterns.

“We see them throughout the year, less during summer time, more when new students are back in town,” Blankley said. “People get away and want to go out, and they’re not 21 years old, so they think they’ll get a fake ID and it won’t be detected. You’re going to see them more when school starts because more people are going out for the first couple times.”

There are many ways for businesses and law enforcement to detect fake IDs, but higher quality copies make it harder to differentiate the genuine from the fake.

“Most of the time, you can tell they’re fake by looking at them,” Blankley said. “There’s holograms and other things that are on the ID. Lots of times, you can just look at the person and tell they’re nowhere near 21. They won’t know the information that’s on the ID.”

Businesses that sell alcohol such as Publix and Buffalo Phil’s routinely train their employees to detect fake IDs as well.

“We have a company come in to check us, ask a server for a beer,” Childress said. “If the server does not card, we fail. But it hasn’t happened in years.”

The penalties for attempting to use a fake ID also vary by location. Vacca said Publix will keep the fake ID to turn into the police and refuse service to the person who tried to use it, who will then typically leave. Buffalo Phil’s doesn’t keep fake IDs, but Childress said they keep a note of the person who tried to use it.

The punishment can be far more severe if a police officer catches someone with a fake ID, Blankley said.

“You’ll either be arrested for it or given a city citation for it and have to go to court,” Blankley said. “The penalty will be up to the judge. It’s not worth having a fake ID, going out there and getting arrested for having one. Wait until you’re 21 before you drink.”

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Too young? Too bad: local businesses, police stay vigilant to identify fake IDs
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