Passing off a fake ID used to be as easy as finding someone with a working lamination machine.
But with the advent of hologram labels and digital bar codes, driver's licenses and other government identification cards are supposed to be harder to duplicate. Yet, teens in one Boston suburb are proving it may be easier than ever to obtain sophisticated fake IDs that can even fool digital scanners.
And if the teens have it figured out, odds are that more malicious actors could, too.
"There appears to be a group of individuals in the 18 or 19 year old age group who have procured 'Fake IDs'," the Canton, Massachusetts, police department posted on Facebook. "The Family Services Unit is actively investigating the identity of these individuals -- those who are supplying the false identification and those establishments that are selling the alcohol."
Shinder Singh, a local liquor store owner, has a stack of fake IDs all confiscated from underage drinkers trying to buy alcohol at his establishment.
“Every week we at least catch one, one or two,” he told WBZ-TV.
Singh and the Canton Police agree: The IDs are so well-made that even scanners can’t tell they are fake.
"Our information indicates these 'Fake IDs' appear to be professionally manufactured with functional 'bar codes' that will work if scanned by a liquor establishment," the police Facebook post said.
Singh sees this problem at his store. But over the past few years, they have become harder to spot.
“They all scan, so all the bar codes if you run then through the machine they will all scan, tell you the ages that’s written on the ID,” Singh said.
Not only is the wave of fake ID use causing problems at liquor establishments, but police say another significant problem is the distribution of the purchased alcohol. They say teens are stashing large amounts of liquor at the homes of unsuspecting residents. Police say they’ve noticed a big spike in underage drinking due to the phony identification.
The teens are buying the liquor and then dropping it at specified locations so other kids can pick it up later.
"Once the alcohol is purchased, it is being 'dropped' at specified locations and occasionally at the residences of unwitting homeowners," the Canton police said. "The retrieval of the alcohol has led to several calls from residents reporting suspicious persons on their property and one call reporting a possible breaking and entering in progress. The resulting responses have led to the diversion of valuable police resources."
The Canton Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze about concerns that the wave of ID forgery could extend to more dangerous entities taking advantage of the same tactics.
Store managers like Singh say the ease of getting these IDs means the problem isn’t going away anytime soon, and police departments are trying to warn the teenagers of the potential long-term affects.
"Students and parents should remember that in addition to academic and athletic sanctions, underage persons found in possession of alcohol can also be charged criminally," the Canton Police said. "Resulting criminal charges will affect the college admissions process, potential scholarships and financial aid packages."
The problem certainly isn't isolated to one area of the country; reports have surfaced that thousands of teenagers have now turned to using Bitcoin to pay for their false identification cards purchased online, and those IDs also passed a digital scanner test, according to the Atlantic.
"The subreddit for fake IDs is how I found the places I wanted to order from," said Jake Ryan, a marketer who ordered two fake IDs at about $150 apiece as part of a project for the website detox.net.
When Ryan ran the ID under a scanner app on his iPhone — technology similar to the kind used to check driver's licenses at Singh's liquor store and some bars and clubs — the details he entered when he ordered the card online appeared.
"It had all the information: name, date of birth, address, all that stuff," he said.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter