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Faking it

Illustration: Connor McCourtney


Fake IDs are easy to come by—just ask any Drake student. But Drake officials are sounding off on the repercussions of using fakes, many of which Drake’s 18- to 20-year-old crowd are in the dark about.

New technology—and cultural norms—have made the faux identifications as common as Drake IDs.

“The prevalence of fake IDs at Drake University is a campus-wide problem,” said Herriott Hall Residence Assistant Brian Johansen. “I would say that three-fourths of underage students own one.”

In a random study, a co-ed residence hall floor with 37 first-year students was surveyed, showing that 78 percent admitted to using fake IDs at campus bars. That translated to 90 percent of males and 65 percent of females saying they had fake IDs.

Getting these IDs is as easy as ever, said one first-year student.

“It’s definitely easy to obtain a fake ID,” said Elizabeth Robinson, a first-year public relations major. “Most everyone knows someone who makes them.”

Many first-years who use them choose to purchase their fakes for a number of reasons: Students are unsure of how to make the IDs, as well as the quality it takes to get into the bars and many upperclassmen on campus offer to make them for a fee. However, some students find other ways to get a fake.

“A lot of people just kind of make their own,” said first-year music education major Spencer Russell. “The bars around here are easy to get into.”

Costs for fake IDs range from $15 for a low-quality ID made to be shown only in particularly dark bars to well over $100 for IDs that pass at even the most stringent of establishments like Hy-Vee.

Some students unwilling to part with their own money said a do-it-yourself option is a Google or YouTube search away. The materials needed — glue, laminate paper and an ID-sized card (from an old hotel key or even an expired Subway gift card) — can all be found around college dorms or easily purchased at a local convenience store. Technologies available on campus, such as scanners, printers and Photoshop, give students easy access to the tools they need to make a fake.

Another alternative for underage students eager to hit the bars is not owning a fake ID at all. A “pass-back,” or using the same fake for multiple people in one night, is a common practice at local establishments.

Although bouncers man the doors, they do not catch every single fake ID user. Most local establishments have a light set up to check the picture, name and birth date, said a bouncer at a bar on Forest Avenue who remained unnamed in the survey.

The same bar’s manager said that many underage students are caught because they use IDs that peel around the edges or that do not use the correct font. He added that in more extreme cases, he has caught and confiscated fakes of students whose ID pictures are of a different race than the user.

Although the bars are supposed to do their best to stop students from using fake IDs, the manager on Forest Avenue said they are not held liable. In the past, police have busted the bars when they were crowded with people under 21-years-old. He said the police check the IDs of everyone in the bar and take away the ones that are fake.

The manager said a student only receives a ticket—usually just for being in a bar after 9p.m.—if he or she hands it over right away. But the charge can be as serious as a drinking ticket if the student has a drink in hand, he said. If students do not give their false identification to the police right away, they are searched and given as many as three tickets. The manager also noted that the responsibility ultimately lies in the hands of the students unlawfully drinking, not the bar. So, as long as the bar has the right amount of workers following proper procedure and the correct equipment, it is in the clear.

Owning and using a fake ID is riskier than most students realize, as campus authority figures note. In the residence halls, R.A.s are allowed to confiscate a fake upon sight. Many students have learned to not keep their fakes outside of their drawers or purses, but those who do can face strict consequences. Johansen said that R.A.s are not allowed to do anything but confiscate the fakes because they do not want to be held liable. When an R.A. finds a false form of identification, he or she turns it over to Randy McMullin, associate director of residence life. From there, McMullin said he hands them over to Drake security or the Iowa Department of Transportation. Students can then face fraud and felony charges.

“When you’re applying for your dream job or graduate school, you may be held back,” McMullin said. “That blemish from when you were 18 or 19 stays on your record for life.”

However, IDs are more commonly confiscated on campus when students are returning from the bars, said Operations Manager Captain Les Wheeler of campus security services.

“We come into contact with students using fake IDs when they’re coming back on campus from the bars falling down or drawing attention to themselves,” Wheeler said. “We take them away and turn them over to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Sometimes they arrest students, but they commonly issue citations. From there, students can even lose their driver’s licenses.”

At Drake, security confiscates fake IDs about once every two to three weeks, Wheeler said. Although citations are commonly issued, the Drake Student Handbook notes that public consumption/intoxication is considered a simple misdemeanor, with fines ranging from $65 to $625 and even up to 30 days in jail. So, while the university looks down on those with fake IDs, it is what students are doing with them, drinking illegally, that primarily gets them in trouble.

But trouble with the law is only part of the aftermath of being caught with a fake ID, said Dean of Students Sentwali Bakari.

“Students can face [school-enforced] sanctions ranging from a warning, reprimand or non-academic probation to suspension,” Bakari said. “Their academic and professional careers can be jeopardized. When students are 18 years old, they think it is cool and cute to access bars and buy alcohol underage.”

However, the majority of the students surveyed who use fake IDs say it is more than that.

“I use a fake ID for socialization at the bars. It’s not just for drinking,” said one 19-year-old female who was surveyed.

While administrators feel strongly about the issue, it is something they cannot completely control. However, one student does not see it as a huge problem.

“It’s illegal, but for college, it’s not that bad,” said first-year secondary education and history major Rachael Snell. “They’re just paying for the alcohol at a younger age. They could be doing hard drugs like cocaine.”


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1 Comment

  1. Emily March 29, 2011

    While the content of this article is unsurprising, I find the methods used to gather a “random survey” of students for fake ID possession questionable. 37 students, confined to a single floor of a single residence hall, is not nearly enough information to extrapolate your findings to apply to the entire campus.
    Similarly, pointing out the admittedly simple methods of making fake IDs may only serve to prompt students who do not currently have IDs to try it. Also, thanks for pointing out the most common ways in which fakes get caught. I’m legal now, and I was never a big party person, but if things were different, I’d be rather tempted.

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