If you, like me, are a college age student, chances are you or your friends have heard about, talked about or even used something commonly found on college campuses - fake identification. A fake ID is often used to obtain substances like alcohol, nicotine, and other devices/substances that are illegal for people under a specific age.

The phenomenon of counterfeit identification is something that has swept college campuses and even high school campuses over the past couple of years.

In American culture, it is now described as a “rite of passage”, as something that everyone goes through before they become of age and are allowed to partake in activities like drinking alcohol legally. As technology continues to improve and the prevalence of online shopping continues to grow in popularity, the market and commercialization of counterfeit identification continue to grow and change.

The history of fake IDs begins with not teenagers, but identity thieves. When identification was simply a paper with your name and address on it, it was extremely easy to replicate this for the purposes of identity theft. As identification began to be more sophisticated and require things like photo ID, the mechanisms to create these fake IDs also became more and more sophisticated to be better.

Thus, this leads to growth in detection technology, for example, new machines that cross-check with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The market for fake IDs has also grown exponentially to millions of dollars, where buying a fake ID is as easy as a Reddit search or Instagram post.

Additionally, in the deep web, there has been a entire market for selling counterfeit identification, even selling passports and different kinds of identification. Silk Road, a deep web listing that requires bitcoin (a decentralized form of online currency) payment, advertises hundreds of fake ID cards.

With counterfeit identification comes with a new culture of of-age “adult” establishments - there has been a growing divide of bars, clubs, and restaurants that are rumored to accept fake identification and establishments that are considered “stricter”. These facts are not lost on both students and adults and have transformed the restaurant, bar and club culture. The evolution of fake IDs is slowly but surely affecting the culture of alcohol and of-age establishments, with technology being developed and people being hired simply to check identification.

However, it seems that people are not just using counterfeit identification for underage drinking.

In 1994, a woman impersonated eight different people and committed welfare fraud under their names. The penalty for fake identification depends on the state.

However, in most states using a different name is considered identity theft and faces harsher consequences than using your real name.

You could face up to $1,000 in fines as a first time offender. However, it’s important to note that if you use the ID to commit an illegal activity, you could be charged for the illegal identification additionally.

As fake identification gains in popularity, we as a society have to face the common question of how it affects our life and is affecting our culture.