IDentity Crisis

Los Angeles teens are increasingly interested in obtaining fake IDs for the sake of purchasing alcohol and illicit substances.

Illustration+by+Sydney+Fener

Illustration by Sydney Fener

Allegra Drago

Outside of Bootsy Bellows, a trendy Los Angeles nightclub, Buckley School alumna Francesca Taylor ’17 shifted in her stilettos as she waited in line with a group of friends. Her legs shook, not from the discomfort of her high heels, but from the anxiety and potential embarrassment of being turned away at the door. Approaching the bouncer, she handed him her ID. Just like that, she was in. Taylor exhaled and joined another group of 19-year-olds, all of them ready to party as though they were the 22-year-old college students listed on their fake driver’s licenses. Taylor said she found that having a fake ID was necessary to keep up with her friends’ social lives.

“It got to the point where there was no birthday party or social gathering that didn’t require a fake ID,” Taylor said. “There were no alternative weekend plans that didn’t include 21-plus restaurants, clubs or concerts.”

Like Taylor, Brenda* said she ordered a fake ID in her junior year in order to maintain her social life. She found it was important to have this identification for social events that required her to purchase alcohol, though she said she greatly feared getting caught.

“When I first got my fake [ID], I only went to places that were known for taking fakes so I could buy [alcohol] for parties and hangouts,” Brenda said.

She said a majority of her high school classmates owned fake IDs and that most of her peers purchased them from the same individual in their graduating class.

“My experience with fakes at [the school] was pretty simple,” Brenda said. “We all knew who sold them, and as long as you knew someone who knew [the seller], it was easy. Now that I’ve graduated, I recently put in an order with him for other people. We just [direct messaged] him on Instagram.”

Ordering an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant without an ID is nearly impossible, Brenda said. As she transitions into her freshman year of college, Brenda said a fake ID will continue to be crucial in her ability to fully immerse herself in college life.

“I think the objective is for most kids to not have to ask their parents for alcohol,” Brenda said. “My parents know that I have a fake [ID]. I told them a year after I got it, and then they were pretty cool with it around senior year, and now obviously that I’m going to be going to school in New York, they’re pretty encouraging about it so I can actually have a social life.”

Students, faculty and law enforcement discuss owning fake IDs

Beverly Hills Police Department Sergeant Billy Fair has served on the police force for the past 17 years and said he has caught multiple teenagers using fake IDs. He said 16 and 17-year-olds are most commonly trying to buy alcohol and tobacco, while 18-to-20-year-olds usually attempt to enter bars and nightclubs.

“The consequences range from being given a warning and having the identification confiscated [to]possibly being arrested for a misdemeanor violation,” Fair said. “Probably the issue with the [greatest] consequence would be that these violations could show up on the person’s record for years to come. This could limit their ability to be accepted when applying for a job or possibly even limit their chances to get into a good college.”

Brando Fuqua ’23 said he understands why one might feel socially pressured to purchase a fake ID.
“I think for people who love to be social and party, a fake ID would help you make friends and be more included,” Fuqua said. “It would suck if all of your friends went out every night without you because they all have fakes.”

In contrast, Logan Azizzadeh ’24 said any reasoning behind purchasing a fake ID does not justify the risk at which one puts themselves and others.

“The rules for underage drinking are made for young adults’ safety, and being able to purchase a fake [ID] renders the law useless,” Azizzadeh said. “I personally would not get a fake ID because I don’t want to deal with the risks that having one has. Having a fake ID is illegal, and breaking the law is obviously not the right thing to do.”

Having handled juvenile cases, Beverly Hills Police Department Detective Ubaldo Mendoza said he commonly encounters two main types of fraudulent IDs: The first type accurately lists one’s information, including their address and name with only the birth year changing, while the second ID card involves stealing the identity of a real person by taking on both their name and birthdate.

“[In] the first case, we usually confiscate the illegal documents, counsel the minor in the presence of their parents and make it an educational experience,” Mendoza said. “[In] the second instance, the information belongs to another person, so the minors are actually [committing identity theft]. The minors are arrested, released to the custody of their parents, and the case [is] presented to the Department of Probation.”

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said she is aware that many students on campus own fake IDs and hopes that the disciplinary measures in place will discourage students from continuing to purchase them.

Slattery also said if a student is caught with a fake ID, the school ordinarily plays a limited role in disciplinary action.

“If the police were involved, we would probably not get involved from a disciplinary standpoint since it’s being handled by them,” Slattery said. “There might be exceptions to that if it clearly impacted our community.”

Taylor said she has multiple underage college friends who have been caught using fraudulent identification.

“I had friends who were leaving for a very casual night out at a bar,” Taylor said. “At the end of the night, [they were] facing six months of court trials trying to clear their names.”
Taylor said she believes teenagers feel comfortable using false identification because they are rarely caught. She said the more she and her friends got away with using fake IDs, the more comfortable they felt using them.

A fake ID dealer recounts her experience

Marlborough School alumna Stefani* dealt fake IDs throughout their grade and said they can remember a point at which they found themself with over $4,000 worth of fake IDs.

“It all started when my best friend and I were trying to get [fake ID] cards and our dealer said that the more people we got in the order, the cheaper it would be for us,” Stefani said. “It was super interesting to see how fast people came to me once they found out that I was involved with something like this. Soon enough, I was sitting with an order of 40 IDs.”

The process of making a fake ID entails taking a profile photo of the user with a white background, as one would at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Stefani said in the fake ID production process, they and their peers used Money Gram. This site allowed them to send money directly to banks in China, where Stefani’s IDs came from.

Stefani said they believe the key to getting away with using a fraudulent ID does not have to do with the quality of the card, but rather the mindset and maturity that the user puts forth when asked to present it.

“I was most scared that the IDs would arrive and be awful quality–which they were,” Stefani said. “But the thing is, no matter how good the card really is, the thing that matters most is the way that you behave while using it.”

Detective Mendoza said he feels using a fake ID is not necessary to having an active social life in one’s youth.

“As far as advice, I would tell [people]to enjoy their youth,” Mendoza said. “Enjoy the opportunities and activities available to them and don’t be in a rush to grow up.”

*Names have been changed