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September 23, 1987 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-09-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A Thriving Trade in F~ake ID's

As the drinking age
rises, students seek new
'proof' they're 21
When the University of California
clamped down on underage drink-
ing at its San Diego campus two
years ago, senior Mark Kelly* got back into
the phony-ID business. No razor blades or
ink remover for Kelly; his product was a
masterpiece of the amateur counterfeiter's
art, which he perfected in high school. With
the help of a friend who worked at a print
shop, Kelly duplicated the state seal Cali-
fornia uses on birth certificates and print-
ed it on blank paper. Then he would take a
real birth certificate, replace the informa-
tion with new names and dates (carefully
matching the font and type size) and photo-
copy the result onto the preprinted paper.
"We would even put coffee rings on to make
it look real authentic," says Kelly. The pur-
chaser needed merely to take the phony
certificate to the Department of Motor Ve-
hicles to get an official driver's license or
state ID. In San Diego, owning a Kelly card
was the next best thing to being 21.
Since the drinking age was raised in most
states, phony ID's have become as common-
place on campus as Bass Weejuns. Nary a
self-respecting freshman would dare ar-
rive on campus without "proof" that he or
she is old enough to buy a beer. At Maggie
Mae's, a popular nightspot on Sixth Street
near the University of Texas in Austin, the
doormen collected so many phony identifi-
cation cards last fall they used them to
decorate the bar's Christmas tree. At the
University of Southern California, officials
estimate that between 60 and 80 percent of
the students carry false identification.
"You need a fake ID in college," says one
20-year-old USC junior. "I can honestly
say my social life here would be impaired
without one."
It's easy to understand why a drinking-
age identification is even more coveted by
students than Dad's credit card. An ID card
is the prerequisite to much of the social life
around the country's campuses; it opens
the door to bars and nightclubs that form
the fabric of after-hours college life. For
many students under the age of 21, a fake
ID can mean the difference between a night
on the town and a night in the dorm playing
Trivial Pursuit. Diane, a 20-year-old Uni-
versity of Miami senior, says she doesn't
*The names of all students in this story have been


As easy to buy as a pair of shoes: USC officer with phonies he obtained for himself

drink much but keeps a fake ID in her purse
anyway. "College students are at a transi-
tional stage between youth and maturity,"
she says. "You want to be with older people
and be sophisticated."
The demand for ersatz identification can
mean big-time profits for student-body
wheeler-dealers. Though fake cards can be
bought anywhere from inner-city "souve-
nir" shops to flea markets to mail-order
houses, most students prefer to deal with
local talent like San Diego's Kelly. Prices

range from a six-pack for a simple penknife
date alteration of an existing ID to $65 for a
genuine state-issued license obtained with
phony documentation. Some of the stu-
dents who make the fakes rationalize their
shenanigans with gobbledygook worthy of
Lt. Col. Oliver North. "It's capitalistic to
note a demand and create a supply to fill
that demand," says Billy, a University of
Texas senior who charged $25 per fake ID.
Billy's process was simple but effective: he
would superimpose new information on a



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