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Liquor stores, bars, crack down on fake IDs

by Xakota Espinoza / Beacon Staff • October 6, 2011

, Beacon Staff/strong

Ron, a manager at a liquor store in downtown Boston, has been snatching fake IDs for 12 years.

With more than 250,000 college students in Boston, the number of underage students looking to purchase alcohol is plentiful.

“I confiscate them,” said Ron, who asked to be identified without his last name “We put them up on the wall like a scarecrow so that people know we take them.”

However, despite the scare tactic, booze-seeking students still risk their luck at liquor stores throughout Boston, including Ron’s, in order to get their hands on some spirits.

A current Emerson student, who agreed to an interview with the Beacon under the pretense of anonymity, said that last spring he purchased a fake ID through a friend of a friend for $80. The now-senior said that his fake Maryland ID worked at all of the bars he went to, but he occasionally had problems at liquor stores.

“The ID allegedly scanned and black-lighted,” he said. “Once it didn’t scan at Blanchard’s in Boston, so they told me they couldn’t accept it.”

The ability to scan and display holograms when black-lighted is a clear indicator of whether an ID is real, said Ron.

“If they look suspicious, we will black-light them,” he said of the counterfeit credentials. “Most the time they come from this place on Tremont Street where they make IDs. You can spot those a mile away.”

Ron said that sometimes an ID card will look deceivingly real, but the key to spotting a fake is detecting the acetate that goes on top of the card in order to create a black-light-able hologram. Ron said that the specific type of acetate used can only be found at locations that use that particular kind of technology, like a college campus or security center. However, Ron said that highly advanced fake IDs can fool shop owners trained to spot frauds, including himself.

“The ones coming from China now look really real, even the acetate,” he said. “Those are the new ones that everyone is suspicious about. A friend of mine showed me a fake from New Jersey and I couldn’t tell.”

Despite having the ability to black-light, the Emerson senior had his ID confiscated at Allston Food amp; Spirits at the end of this summer. He said he figured that, because not a lot of people go there, it would be safe to use a fake.

“The girl at the register asked for a backup ID and I gave it to her,” he said. “She then said she had to get her manager, and at that point I just asked for it back, but she didn’t listen.”

According to the student, when the manager came out, he brought out the most recent book of IDs for every state and compared the photo with the ID. According to Ron, liquor stores get an updated book of every state’s IDs every year, and using it as a reference is common.

The student said that the manager asked if his ID was “for real,” and then proceeded to ask him if he wanted to have the police come down to verify it.

“I told him no and to just give it back,” the student said. “He said ‘I think I should call the cops’ and I just left the store after that.”

Another Emerson student, who is currently a junior, had his fake ID confiscated only a few weeks after purchasing it last March, but his wasn’t taken at a liquor store.

“I didn’t have any problems at liquor stores because I knew which stores to go to,” he said. “I used it to try and get into Sweetwater [Tavern] and the bouncer said ‘Nope’ and told me I was going to have to leave the premises. I tried really hard to get it back, like telling him my dad was a lawyer. Rookie mistake.”

Ron said that in addition to being able to scan and black-light, different states have various indicators that an ID is real.

“New York and Minnesota IDs are made of a special plastic,” he said. “They’re rubbery, and when folded in half there will be a gritty feeling with the sides rub together. If you rub the plastic on a fake, there won’t be that same friction.”

Lt. Eric Schiazza of the Emerson College Police Department said that some liquor stores, like Blanchard’s, fill out an affidavit for every ID that they keep, including the card and the students name and information. The affidavits are then collected and sent to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and surrounding colleges quarterly.

According to Schiazza, the RMV will summon the person to appear in court. If found guilty, Schiazza said culprits can have their drivers license revoked from anywhere between 60 to 180 days. Additionally, Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 90, Section 24, states that a person found in possession of a falsely made drivers license can be charged with up to five years in prison and a $500 fine.

“We find that [punishment] to be kind of excessive,” said Ron. “So we just keep them.”

Schiazza said, upon receiving the package of affidavits, ECPD looks them up in the student database. If a match is found, the student is then written up for an off-campus drinking violation, and the report is sent to the Dean of Students office and Judicial Conduct office for further action.

Chief George Noonan, director of public safety, said that lately liquor stores have been cracking down on fake IDs, and that he sees this as a sign of changing times.

“This won’t stop underage drinking but it has put it down quite a bit,” he said. “They’re going to go some place to try and get it [alcohol], but it’s not going to be as easy.”