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Underage drinking catalyzes fake ID production.

By RYAN SWANSON
DCN Correspondent

It’s Friday night and people are getting ready for the weekend. A customer strolls through the liquor store until he finds the beer of his liking and brings it to the counter. “It comes to $15.98,? says the cashier. “Oh, and can I see your ID too.?

On most occasions that question does not pose a problem, but an issue has emerged recently. The problem is when underage consumers try to use false identification to purchase alcohol.

Pam Crotty, the owner of the Shanty Bottle shop, has noticed that in the past few years there has been an increase in the number of minors trying to buy alcohol with fake IDs.

“We usually get one a night,? said Kaj Mustonen, an employee at Last Chance Liquor and Wine Cellar.

With such a high number of underage drinkers, fake IDs will likely increase in demand.

A website discussing social problems with alcohol and maintained by State University of New York Socialogy professor David J. Hanson, says that “states are spending millions of dollars attempting to deter the production of millions of fake IDs. Yet officials admit that as soon as they improve security features, bright young people devise ways of duplicating them.?

One 19-year-old Duluthian who wished to remain anonymous has turned his creation of fake IDs into a small business. He makes upward of $100 per ID that he makes. He claims that his IDs are successful when used even though they are made without any high tech equipment. All he uses is the Microsoft Paint application on his computer, a picture of the person, a laminator, and a real ID to use as a reference.

Although these “bright young people? may find ways to make their fake identification look like the real thing, there still are ways to pick them apart from the real ones.

“We can tell pretty easy that some of them are fake,? said Jake Haugen, an employee at the Shanty Bottle Shop. “Some of them are really flimsy or made pretty bad.?

Mustonen uses a book that helps employees detect fake IDs. He said that alcohol companies like Budweiser produce books that show different ways to detect the fake forms of identification. Another method that the retailers can use to check the validity is to scan the magnetic strip on the back of the ID. The strip will register on the machine if it is real and will display the information that is on the card.

While this may seem like an easy and foolproof way to detect fake IDs, there is a downfall. Mustonen said that the scan machine does not work for some states. He said that it will work for Minnesota IDs but Wisconsin ones will not work when scanned.

Mustonen said that he sees all different types of identification. Some types that he sees other than Minnesota driver’s licenses are international, military and other state’s forms of identification.

The sophistication of some of the fake IDs is keeping the authorities around the country on their toes. Hanson’s website cites an official of Florida's Division of Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco stating that fake IDs are getting so good that the agency actually have to use laboratory equipment to detect them. The official, who teaches police how to identify counterfeit IDs, revises his training manual monthly to keep up with improvements in fake IDs.