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Fake IDs in Boston: Worth it or Not?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  September 21, 2011 05:13 PM

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mclovin_01_header.jpgThe undeniable allure of Boston’s neon signs tempts the underage drinkers, for whom turning 21 is a rite of passage. All that stands between average college buzz-seekers and the endless nights of bar-crawling hysteria and shameless flirting in classy nightclubs is their birth date -- or, in many cases, the bouncer or bartender questioning them about their fake one.

Though a somewhat convincing plastic ID card and some amateur Photoshop skills might pass in other major cities, a fake ID, if detected, won’t slide in the Boston area. Massachusetts law considers using a fake ID a criminal offense, punishable by a maximum sentence of three months in jail, a $200 fine, and a one-year suspension of your license (the legal one).

Most minors might only procure a fake ID for the purchase of alcohol, but falsifying identification is a criminal offense and a national security issue. Therefore, vendors who come across fake IDs “are supposed to take them and give them to the local police,” said Officer Amy McKenna of BPD District 14 (Allston/Brighton). However, most clubs and bars only confiscate the fraudulent license and ask the individual to leave.

“They can’t do that,” said Officer McKenna, “because the law states that they have to give it to the local police department.”

“If it doesn’t look real we ask for a second ID….If they have a second ID and we still don’t approve, we can ask the manager to verify,” said a bartender at Red Sky, a restaurant and lounge in the Faneuil Hall area. Her job required that she remain anonymous. “We have a paper ID that matches what the real IDs are supposed to look like. [If it’s fake], we take them, [and] we don’t serve [the person].”

But fake ID providers have responded to the Boston market with higher-quality IDs. Through significant technological advancements, various organizations have established themselves as reputable, illegal providers of fraudulent licenses for the underage black market.

A Google search of “How can I get a fake ID?” generates effective responses within seconds of entering those risky words. Students can look around and compare prices and quality as if they’re shopping for a legal, well-advertised product.

In a matter of 20 or so days, purchasers can have a new birthday and access to Boston’s nightlife. Minors buying from one site may even assemble a group to purchase in bulk at a lower cost. IDs cost between $50 and $200 for two copies, depending on group size and ID quality, wired from a designated account number to an unknown location. After that, the process is easy: Choose your desired state of residence -- typically Florida or Pennsylvania, given the minimal security features of those states’ licenses -- name, and basic information. Customers must also provide a headshot taken against a solid-colored backdrop, which the site will crop and edit to appear as though it was taken at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Despite these deviously innovative technologies that may fool club and bar owners without access to certain records, police forces remain capable of detecting a fraudulent license. Fenway Park security confiscates fake IDs and turns them over to Alcohol Compliance.

“[We] pretty much just take it…and ask them nicely to leave the stadium,” said a Fenway park security guard who concealed his nametag while I spoke with him. Job-related policies required that he remain anonymous. “[We have] no tolerance.”

Despite these risks, some students feel the price is worth it.

“To really experience Boston nightlife, you need a fake to get into the good clubs and bars. The city schools do not have the frat scene that the suburban schools tend to have,” said a Boston University sophomore. “I’m smart enough to know whether and when to use it, so the risk is worth the reward.”

Those students who see no appeal in going through the trouble of sending confidential information over the internet and paying a steep price for a product that they could lose in one use may instead choose to borrow a legal ID from a sibling or a look-a-like older student, bypassing the quality and scanning issues.

Bars right near college campuses like BC, BU, and Northeastern that I know of are really hard to get into because they know [we’re] all college kids trying [to use a fake],” said a Boston College sophomore. “These bars, you have better luck with using a fake ID that is your real picture, but a lot of bars that are right in Boston are a lot easier, and you can get in with a fake that isn’t you but is a real ID.”

And other students simply remain content waiting patiently for that magical birthday.

“At some point we’re all going to be 21, so just wait it out,” said Thomas Diorio, a sophomore at Bentley. “It’s not worth getting arrested or fined over.”

By Lacey Nemergut -- With a passion for liberal arts and an addiction to excessive writing, I somehow ended up at a business school. I currently attend Bentley, where I plan to major in economics and finance. In an attempt to hang on to my true devotion, I write for the news section of the Vanguard. For me, the greatest thrill of the job is conducting interviews and listening intently as people reveal their stories.

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