Investigation: Fake IDs becoming massive problem in NC county

North Carolina news

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s a problem happening almost every weekend at bars and clubs.

Pitt County is seeing the largest number of fake ID incidents in the state. Alcohol Law Enforcement said not only are fraudulent identifications becoming more popular, they’re also becoming harder to spot.

“They’re really top of the market, and they’ve really come a long way,” said Eric Swain, special agent in charge for the North Carolina A.L.E.’s Greenville District. “This is my 27th year. These IDs are far higher quality than anything we’ve ever seen.”

Fake IDs are becoming a real problem. Swain said they’re more realistic and more common.

“The manufacturers of these IDs have spent a lot of time duplicating the security features,” he said. “They’ve spent a lot of time working to get it exactly right. We’ve always seen a lot of fakes here. The problem is we’re seeing a lot more.”

A.L.E. special agents seized 212 fake IDs in the Greenville district alone during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which was remarkable considering COVID-19 closed many establishments for months during the pandemic.

“We ranked number one with the most fraudulent identifications seized out of all the other A.L.E. districts,” said Swain. “We’re number one in the most fraudulent identification arrests in the state. And that number is by almost double. So our numbers far exceed a lot of the other district’s numbers.”

Swain said 71 percent of the fakes taken last year came out of our area.

“Along with seeing that many more fake IDs, we’ve also started to see an uptick in fatalities,” he said. “We’ve seen accidents involving underage drivers that have left some of these businesses uptown where alcohol was consumed on a fake ID and these young folks were tragically killed in an accident.”

The thing about fake IDs? They take real lives.

“Many times we’re sitting in a living room with a parent and they’re wanting to know why did my child have to die that way,” said Swain. “Why did my child have to die on the side of the road in a vehicle accident?”

Since April 2021, A.L.E. agents have traced two deaths back to underage drinking in Uptown Greenville.

So how can we prevent this?

“We want to be able to use the information that we’ve garnered from our work and all the things that we’ve done and share it with the retail industry, the retail ABC industry, so that we’re getting the information to the people that are the frontline,” said Swain. “The ones that are selling alcohol on a daily basis. The ones that are seeing the IDs every day.”

Swain said there are some easy ways for bouncers to spot fake IDs.

“If it’s issued in North Carolina, it has four or five zeros at the beginning,” he said. “If you see an ID like this one that begins with a three, then automatically we know it’s fake.”

Why aren’t bars already putting extra precautions in place to prevent fake ID use?

“Some of the clubs that are specifically around universities, it’s a very long line of individuals waiting to get in,” said Swain. “A lot of times it can be considered time-consuming. That it would take too much time to go through and physically look at each ID with a magnifying glass.”

What’s the motivation for bar owners to cut out these fake IDs?

“Public safety,” said Swain. “To me and to anybody that’s running a business the absolute worst thing that could happen is that a young person, an underage person was inside their business consuming with a fake ID and they got killed in an accident.

“We don’t need any more of these obituaries popping up or these individuals getting in a car, getting in an accident and getting killed. It’s terribly tragic. And a lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t realize that until it hits close to home.”

If bar and club owners want more tips on how to spot fraudulent identifications, they can reach out to their local A.L.E. office for free training.

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