- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

BLOOMINGTON (AP) — Chris Ludy has heard it all. He is the “ID Nazi,” the “ID police” — names yelled at him by Indiana University students who have tried to use fake IDs at the liquor store he manages a few blocks off campus.

He and his staff at Big Red Liquors use black lights to help them examine holograms on any number of state licenses that come through their doors. They check campus directories to see if students’ addresses match those given on the licenses, and they question people whose birth dates look doctored, often keeping the IDs they suspect are fake.

“I’ll ask them what their astrological sign is, just to see how they react,” Mr. Ludy says.

Now his store and several others near college campuses in Indiana have added one more tool to foil underage drinkers: They are using scanners that read the bar codes and electronic strips on the backs of most state driver’s licenses.

The devices are gaining popularity with liquor retailers, police officers and bar owners nationwide as fake IDs become more sophisticated and difficult to spot.

These days, students can order fake IDs from any number of Web sites or from fellow students, usually for $100 or more. Often, the more expensive fakes have holograms on them to make them appear more real.

“As they get better, we need to get better,” says John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which has several members testing the scanning devices for this month’s hard-partying college homecoming weekends.

Officials in Florida were among the first to use scanning devices, targeting beach towns that are popular college spring-break destinations.

“There are literally thousands of people arrested,” says Maj. David Myers, commander of the northern region for the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.

Maj. Myers says most underage drinkers caught with fake IDs are ordered to appear en masse in court the day after they receive their citations. Some pay fines. Others opt to do community service such as trash pickup.

“Panama City beach is one of the cleanest beaches in the country after the spring breakers get done cleaning it up,” he said.

Even those who use the scanning system say it is not, by itself, a perfect solution. Some retailers note that the scanners sometimes don’t work if a license is bent.

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