How to Spot a Fake ID in a Black Light

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Legitimate state IDs have holographic seals and other security features.
Legitimate state IDs have holographic seals and other security features. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

While a 2005 New York Times article reported on a new generation of fake IDs that can only be detected by specialized scanners, such high-quality IDs are expensive, and most minors still use low-grade fakes or their sibling’s ID. Many people remove an original IDs plastic covering and change the name or birth date, while others create IDs using material from a local craft store. Black lights easily detect most tampering and subpar holograms or other security marks.

Examination

Look for the holograms. State identification cards have a holographic covering that usually features the state’s seal or a similar symbol. Low-quality fake IDs do not have the covering and shining a black light on the card will show nothing and reveal it as a fake.

Study the hologram, as many fake holographic coverings are blurry or feature an image that is not the state’s seal.

Look for evidence of tampering. Black lights often highlight where the individual tampered with the ID, and they always reveal any chalking or other technique that removed the original name or birth date from the ID. Black lights can reveal additional glue or other marks resulting from a seal that the individual removed or replaced.

Tips & Warnings

  • Familiarize yourself with different state IDs, as all look slightly different and have different markings.
  • High-quality fakes will look entirely legitimate under a black light. You'll be able to spot the fake only when you scan the barcode into a database. Hence, if you're worried the police will fine you or shut your business down for serving minors who enter with fake IDs, consider investing in a scanner.

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