How to Spot a Fake or Counterfeit ID

Make sure that these state security features on a legitimate ID card are present on the card to help you distinguish it from a fake or counterfeit ID card!

Tips or Steps to Spot a Fake State Identification Card

It’s important to know the differences between a real state identification card and one that is not. The main difference in identifying fake cards, according to an expert at State ID Central iz: “You’re far more likely if it has been tampered with.” There are also several telltale signs you can look out for when trying on new identity documents like driver licenses or passports from your home country; so make sure these tips don’t get lost next time!

Ask the ID Holder Some Questions

Fake IDs contain false information so, more or less, the holder of the ID may not have memorized all of the information it contains. To spot a fake ID, try asking the ID holder some simple questions to confirm the info contained in the ID card. This will reveal whether the person knows his/her own identity as indicated in his/her (fake) ID card. You may ask questions on the ID card, like:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Height

If the ID holder refuses to answer, then request for a different or an additional identification card.

Use an ID Card Verification Software

Because a state’s ID security features can be researched and copied accurately without misspellings or errors, this is when you would need to double check an ID card using an ID verification software.

All government-issued IDs contain machine-readable barcodes that include encoded information that matches the information visibly seen on the ID cards. Information such as:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Sex/ Gender
  • Address, etc.

Most ID card scanners can read the barcodes for these encoded information and can spot low-quality fake IDs. It does this by detecting whether there are some information encoded/ recorded in the barcodes.

It would fail to validate fake IDs because they usually don’t have these encoded information displayed similarly in the IDs. On the other hand, sophisticated fake ID cards may still contain some encoded information. Thus, basic scanners, that can only detect if there are encoded information in the IDs, may falsely validate these fake IDs.

A high quality ID verification software doesn’t just look for encoded information, it can also verify it using a trusted database for correctly validating the IDs.

Beware of Errors and Misspellings

This is the first step in physically checking if an identification card is fake or not.

Most fake IDs are produced in a hurry so being familiar with the state ID card or driver’s license’s wordings is very important so you can easily spot suspicious misspellings or errors.

This can help you easily spot a genuine ID card from a fake one that’s been produced in a rush.

Learn Your States ID Card Features

Note that each state’s identification card or driver license uses a unique set of security features to distinguish their cards. You may do a simple Google search for your state’s ID security features to let you know if a prospective ID is fake or not.

State IDs may typically contain special features like:

  • Holograms
  • Fine lines
  • Duo color texts
  • Light tiny images
  • Perforations
  • Laser engravings, etc.

Here’s an example of Texas additional driver’s license security features:

  • Number of Digits

Aside from the security features stated above, also note the number of digits in the driver license’s card number. The driver’s ID in some states have only 6 or 7 digits, while others, like Texas, have 8 digits.

  • ID Card’s Validity

Also note the length of the IDs’ validity. For instance, a Texas driver’s license validity ranges from 6-7 years; thus, if the validity or expiration date of a driver’s license is longer than expected, then it must be a fake ID and an alternate ID must be asked for.

Physically Inspect the IDs

Here are some steps you can take to catch a fake ID by physically inspecting it:

  • Feel the front and back surfaces of the ID. If you run your thumb over the surface of a card and find that a portion of the ID feels thick, irregular, bumpy or with ridges, then this could be a sign that it’s fake.
  • Check the ID’s edges. If the edges are rough or peeling, it could be a sign of a fake ID as well. Also, if the edges feel square, then it’s possible that the card has a fake front, since most IDs have rounded edges.
  • Check the card’s corners as well. The corners of a real state ID cannot be peeled back or split. If you can easily do this to the corners with just your finger nail, then it’s likely to be a fake ID.
  • Check the card’s weight, thickness, and/or rigidity. Squeeze the ID gently to see if the card feels usual to the touch. Fake IDs will generally feel different than a real state ID.

Try the Laminate Bend Test

All states use a special type of laminate for their ID cards. They use this to protect the card from being easily damaged as well as to seal their UV imagery.

To do the bend test, simply take the ID card and bend it gently into a “U” shape. Check to see if the laminated surface will bubble because of a cheap laminate, which means that the card is fake.

Test the Materials Sound

Genuine identification cards are made with polycarbonate, and you can distinguish a real polycarbonate card from a fake one by the sound it makes.

When you drop a polycarbonate card on a hard surface, it makes a “ting” sound similar to that of a CD’s when it’s tapped on a hard surface. This is how you can easily spot a real polycarbonate ID from a fake one.

Feel for Laser Engraving or Embossing

Certain states, like California and Arizona, have embossed laser printing on the signature or date of birth part of the card. This type of embossing uses laser to raise the plastic on the front part of the card without damaging the back. It is difficult to copy and uses additional tools, but can look convincing when replicated strategically.

However, note that most counterfeit polycarbonate cards are often Not laser engraved and uses  only Teslin card stocks simulated by a black toner instead of laser.

Look for State-Specific Holograms

For several states like New Hampshire and Arizona, driver’s license cards have holograms (which vary by state) appearing as an outline of their state. These holograms are visible only when held up to the light, looking like small watermarks or small state-specific hidden background images difficult to replicate.

Always check cards for these holograms to help you easily distinguish a real ID from a fake one.

Check for Laser Perforations

Legitimate state IDs have laser perforations that look like ultra-tiny needle-tip holes forming a picture on the card. These perforated holes are usually so small that they are only visible when held up to the light.

Note that the appearance of these laser perforations also varies by each state. For instance, Texas’ ID perforation is in the shape of their state, while California’s perforation is an outline of their California “brown bear”.

Find the States UV Imagery

Many states IDs also have a second lighter image that’s only visible under UV light—another security feature not easily detectable to the naked eye.

Like many states, Washington’s UV image appears as its “state seal” and can be seen in multiple parts of the card using UV light.

General Tips:

Make sure that all these features above appear clear and vivid on the ID cards—that they can be:

  • Seen with the naked eye.
  • Seen when you tilt the card.
  • Identified with the help of a light source (visibly seen when held up to natural light or under UV light)
  • Perceptibly detected through touch or sound.

Beware that there are fake/ counterfeit IDs that are sophisticatedly made and very difficult to detect with just the naked eye, so doing these strategies above may help you to detect one.