The use of fake drivers’ licenses isn’t just limited to teenagers drinking beer, but can be used by terrorists, illegal immigrants and fraudulent voters to go around barriers set up law enforcement.
There is a whole unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) devoted to document fraud, and yet a quick search on Google yields credible fake ID vendors.
Narcotics are accessible on the internet as well, but they require the use of software such as Tor in order to get to the “darknet.” Tor allows you to visit websites that are only accessible on the software’s browser and user’s locations and identities are hidden through the use of thousands of relays.
On the other hand, there is a large community on Reddit openly discussing which fake ID websites are credible, offering sales and giving reviews on products.
Drivers licenses and student IDs are the main types of fraudulent identifications available on the open internet. For passports one can visit a “dark marketplace” and purchase a fake Spanish passport for nearly $3,000.
The subreddit “fakeid” has over 15,000 subscribers and keeps a list of “verified” vendors who the moderators have confirmed won’t scam users. Sources close to The Daily Caller have ordered fake drivers licenses from these vendors, all of which have scannable bar codes, proper holographics, and work at liquor stores or hotel check-ins.
The “verified” list is necessary, as vendors frequently perform “exit scams” in which they sell IDs for a bit and then stop returning products for the money they receive. A source close to TheDC has been on the receiving end of one of these scams.
A Google search for “fake id” gives Fakeyourdrank.com as a top result, a “verified” vendor on Reddit and a domain that has been registered since 2014. The website sells single IDs for $100 and multiples of three of more for $80. Like many sites it takes either Bitcoin or Reloadit vouchers. Reloadit vouchers are prepaid cards sold at neighborhood stores that fake ID vendors frequently take.
Bitcoin is the preferred form of payment for vendors of illicit goods or services online. Drugs, hitmen, fake IDs, you name it. The crypto-currency allows for optimum anonymity and is easy to procure through services such as Coinbase.
According to ICE: “ICE places a high priority on investigating document and benefit fraud. These types of fraud pose a severe threat to national security and public safety because they create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, other criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States.”
While ICE claims to place a “high priority” on fake IDs, sites such as reallygoodfakes.com have had a registered domain since 2010.
Jesse Hathaway, research fellow at the Heartland Institute, told TheDC: “The federal government can shut down websites suspected of aiding illegal activity, and frequently does so. For example, in fall 2015, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service helped shut down 37,479 websites operated by individuals believed to have been selling counterfeit goods, such as consumer electronics, headphones, cell phones, and handbags.”
TheDC reached out to ICE to ask why so many of these fake ID websites are able to operate openly on the internet and not be taken down.
Dani Bennett, ICE spokeswoman, said, “In FY2015, [Homeland Security Investigations] arrested 1282 individuals on federal document fraud charges.”
The ICE spokeswoman also pointed TheDC towards two press releases announcing the sentencing of a Los Angeles man who ran a fake ID website and the guilty plea of a member of a fake ID ring at the University of Virginia. The Los Angeles man was arrested four years ago, and the fake ID ring taken down two years ago.
This ease of availability of fake drivers licenses poses a danger to American national security, according to Paul Rozenweig, former deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department for Homeland Security.
Rozenweig told TheDC: “Almost all of our counter terrorism actions are linked to biographic information – a name, a date of birth – the entire terrorist watch list for example. If people can avoid a biographic identity, they effectively disable that 80 percent of what we do in counter-terrorism.”
He said that a fixed identity “is at the core at what we do in counter-terrorism today.”
Ian Smith, investigative associate at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, told TheDC fake IDs are commonly used by illegal immigrants to “obtain work, open a bank account, and rent an apartment.”
Besides the key issues related to fake drivers licenses of illegal immigration and terrorism that ICE identifies, fake IDs can also enable voter fraud.
Hans von Spakvovsky, former member of the Federal Election Commission and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told TheDC that fake IDs are a “potential way around a state that has a photo ID law in place.”
Rozenweig, now a senior adviser to the Chertoff Group and a lecturer at George Washington University School of Law, told theDC that in his “personal view” the security of drivers licenses “has been underemphasized.”
“We’ve done a great deal, for example, to make passports harder to forge, we’ve been much less successful in making domestic identification such as drivers license secure,” Rozenweig said. “The fact that 15 years after 9/11, we still don’t have a secure drivers license identification system in the United States that is hard to spoof and applies to all 50 states is a good example of how we haven’t put any emphasis on this.”
The REAL ID Act aims to have a national standard for drivers licenses, but since becoming law in 2005, less than half of all states have complied.