Susie Davis strolled up to a Western Union teller and asked to transfer cash to the address she had been provided.
The teller asked why she was wiring money.
“I’m getting a fake ID,” she said simply.
The teller swiftly kicked Davis, a former ISU student, and her friends out of the store. He wouldn’t aid in something illegal, he told her.
Davis then sped to Walgreens and approached the teller there. He, too, asked what she was buying.
“Shoes,” she said this time.
Davis exited the Walgreens $100 poorer. Within two months, once her ID had shipped from a renowned seller outside the country, she’d enter a bar four years older.
Now, three years later, many of Davis’s friends use fakes to buy their Mike’s Hard Lemonades and Barefoot Moscatos from gas stations and liquor stores. But Davis was the first in the group to order a fake ID. Her boyfriend was 21, and she was 17 and tired of being left out of weekend bar excursions.
So Davis found IDGod.
The website offers driver’s licenses for 47 states and the United Kingdom, all purportedly barcode scannable and virtually indistinguishable to the eye from legitimate IDs (provided a mistake like ADDRESS: 123 ANYSTREET doesn’t slip in.) Unless someone at the bar rats you out, Davis says, you’re free to purchase alcohol, enter 21-plus bars, clubs and concerts and generally protest the United States drinking age, like her friend Tim James.
“You can get a car loan, mortgage, fight for your country, live on your own, buy tobacco, go to prison, all that jazz, when you’re 18,” said James, a student enrolled at ISU. “So, I mean, it makes no sense to make the drinking age 21.”
Thanks to their IDGod licenses, both Davis and James, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity, have effectively been over 21 for several years.
Both purchased their trusty fakes from the seller, who is well-known in online communities for manufacturing quality IDs. It’s the first result for trusted vendors on the Reddit community, r/fakeid, with an “exemplary” title—meaning that, according to r/fakeid records, the site has produced top-notch IDs for over 12 months straight without any delays.
IDGod’s website looks more like a bare-bones WordPress blog rather than an exemplary online retailer, peppered with grammar mistakes and odd sentence constructions. Its homepage praises the experience of owning a fake. It’s a set of experiences that IDGod peddles, not just a plastic card.
“Are you thinking about all those parties and all that booze? Do you and your friends want to be a part of it?” the homepage asks in 14px Helvetica Neue. “In that case, we’ve got the answer for you!”
On the prices page, IDGod presents a long list of states, each with a set of dollar amounts. Wyoming will set you back $100 for two IDs—a main and a backup, so you can just head to a different bar if someone snitches, Davis said—or, if you submit an order with three or more other friends, only $60 per person. Oregon costs $200 for one person and $320 for four.
The latter state is “sexy,” IDGod says. Underneath Connecticut, the newest version, are the words “FIRE WOW GET IT NOW!” North Carolina? “NEWEST ISSUE SEXY OHHHHHH.”
Despite the linguistic red flags, Davis and James give rave reviews of the site. Davis recommended it to all her friends.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done, to be honest,” she said of buying her set of IDGod licenses.
After clicking the ‘ORDER’ tab on the website, buyers fill out a form with their desired information: a pseudonym, date of birth, state, height, weight, hair and eye color, gender and address (IDGod will fill one in if you leave it blank.)
Next, there’s a space to upload a signature and picture, with detailed instructions. Wear dark clothing, take the photo with a real camera and use flash, IDGod advises. Signatures should be written with Sharpie on white computer paper.
Checkout is not the usual debit-card-and-discount-code affair. IDGod requests payment through Western Union, the route Davis took, and with Bitcoin, Litecoin and other cryptocurrencies. Jones used the Bitcoin method, although he didn’t understand how it worked.
There’s an obvious reason for the untraceable payment method: fake IDs are illegal.
In Idaho, it’s a misdemeanor to own a fictitious driver’s license. The state can repeal your driving privileges for 90 days if you’re caught with a fake ID.
You can also be charged with possessing alcohol as a minor, another misdemeanor. Idaho law charges a $300 fine for first-time offenders, and punishments reach $3,000 fines and 60-day jail sentences for repeated infractions. Even first-time offenders can get their licenses revoked for up to a year and undergo alcohol treatment, at court discretion.
Idaho law also punishes alcohol-serving establishments for selling to minors. The potentials of racking up fines or losing their liquor licenses give bars and restaurants incentive to check IDs thoroughly and eject minors who try to use fakes.
At a Boise nightclub, where Rebecca Charron bartends, the club relies on new ID scanning technology to catch fakes and felons before they walk in the door. Bouncers use the scanner and the older UV-light and barcode-scanning methods to check the validity of driver’s licenses.
For her bartending job, Charron took TIPS certification classes, which train staff at alcohol-serving establishments to help prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. She said the training taught her how to spot fake IDs by inspecting the pictures, dates and laminate on licenses.
“If I ever serve alcohol to a minor I’m the one that’s responsible for it,” she said.
Charron is correct—in Idaho, she could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined for serving alcohol to a minor. But as Cameron Brown, a waitress and bartender at a Rexburg restaurant explained, staff at less popular establishments often rely on personal experience rather than formal training. One veteran coworker, for example, advised her to check licenses for imperfections.
“The biggest giveaways are if the edges of the photo are blurry, or if the type is,” Brown said. “And you can tell more easily on the dates and names on the license.”
As far as she and her coworkers know, fakes are a rarity. Could it be that the age-old tricks of sniffing out a fake ID are no longer as foolproof as they were only a few years ago? Maybe, judging by Brown’s reaction to the IDGod process.
“What on earth? That’s amazing,” she said. “I wonder how many people have come in through here and used a fake.”
James wasn’t all that worried about IDGod’s legality when he placed his order. He was more concerned with what happened after the ID came in the mail.
“The experience was super cool,” he said, “because the thrill of getting in trouble was still there, but I was allowed to take part in experiences like going to bars and whatnot.”
James and five friends ordered their IDs together to get a six-for-$360 deal. A few weeks later, they got a package. In the box, under sets of titanium chopsticks, was a false bottom, and under that were their six pairs of IDs.
The group frequented local bars and purchased alcohol for parties, no longer relying on older friends to do the job. James’ ID worked perfectly, for a while. Then, one night at a bar, an acquaintance spotted James and told staff he was underage.
The bartender yelled at him, James said, and he was kicked out unceremoniously after handing over the fake ID. He didn’t buy another set.
“Now that I’m coming up on 21, all the fun and excitement is not there,” he said. “It soon won’t be a big deal for me.”
Davis agreed that the novelty of her fake ID wore off quickly. She used hers for over three years before getting one confiscated, taking for granted the privileges a few extra years afforded her.
“I was shaking the first time I used it,” she said, “but I actually forgot I wasn’t really 21 until the night I got it taken away.”
IDGod understands the allure of the fake. The website features colorful photos of tequila shots and Absolut bottles, a line of text above imploring the prospective buyer to “think about all that fun stuff you could do with a new ID.”
The line’s almost unnecessary: most everyone perusing the site knows that a hundred-dollar rectangle, quite literally, opens doors.
It’s why, for decades, undergrads have traveled to seedy print shops and ID operations across the border to secure a license with a different birth date. It’s why minors today wire money to mysterious addresses, why the eager 19-year-olds of the future will navigate technology more daunting than Bitcoin to obtain a horizontal license.
“People get them so they can do the stuff they’re not supposed to,” James said. “Like, it’s human nature. You yearn for something you can’t have.”