Security Blog

The Fake ID Epidemic: What can be Done?

Huge and Growing ID Threat

November 3, 2013
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Every day, hundreds of thousands of counterfeit drivers licenses are presented for identification to businesses across the United States. Many times, these fake IDs are used to deceive banks and retail stores for financial fraud and scams, while other imposters use them to board airplanes and access secure areas. The huge scale of counterfeit ID sales presents a direct threat to public safety and homeland security. A new report published by the Coalition for a Secure Drivers License points to five ways to combat the widespread fraud.

The report, Counterfeit IDs: A National Security, Public Safety Threat, acknowledges that most of these documents are used by minors to purchase alcohol and enter nightclubs, but others are used by career criminals, leading to millions of dollars in financial losses incurred through imposter fraud. While these crimes are more frequent, no one should ignore the significant danger of terrorists using counterfeit IDs to buy explosives or guns to hide their trail. Each year, the courts address many instances of identity thieves who use counterfeit documents to hide their past criminal histories, such as drunk drivers and sex predators, and the terrorists who seek false driver's licenses to carry out their attacks - one of the Boston Marathon bombers had a reading list full of how-to guides on ID counterfeiting.

The al-Qaeda training manual explicitly instructs operatives to obtain fake IDs - a key part of the process of their attacks, says Max Bluestein, Director of Research for CSDL. This directive was followed by the 9/11 terrorists and these documents continue to be play a crucial operational role in many of the 60 major terrorist plots uncovered since.

Not enough is currently being done to thwart such imposters, but CSDL has listed applicable solutions. A key recommendation is to diminish demand by increasing the penalties against counterfeit document users. Many states currently have weak or no enforcement for someone holding or using counterfeit IDs.

CSDL President Brian Zimmer says, There are states where fake IDs often aren't even confiscated on discovery. Other states, like Iowa and New York, consider use of a counterfeit driver's license a criminal offense, with corresponding deterrent effect. Wisconsin legislators are considering a law allowing retailers to bring suit against fake ID users for up to $1,000. Such a law is a positive step to curb consumer demand and damage the counterfeiters' enterprise.

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