Fake IDs still available after U.S. attacks


Trying to smoothly score the same fake ID I carried half a lifetime ago, I give myself away at the start.

"There's 10 numbers on your SIN," the guy behind the counter says when he reads my Social Insurance Number. "You've got an extra number."

Looking at the form, I pause, then say, "Just get rid of the last one."

He looks at me, then down, puts a pen squiggle through the final digit and informs me that "this is a novelty item." In the next breath, he offers to backdate it.

"Today is fine," I say.

He doesn't ask to see proper identification, but we're both a little skittish by the time he tells me how long it's going to take. Once I agree to hang around, he goes into the back room three or four times, and I don't like that at all.

I bought a fake ID somewhere around here when I was 17. It used to be that every other head shop on Yonge dealt in them. Now, only one between Queen and Bloor openly carries the documents. There, among some two dozen options are ID cards that would seem to be issued from national, provincial and state governments.

Utilitarian templates, such as the one I'm obtaining, start at $30, while fancier cards with holograms go for $45.

Although Toronto police say it's unlikely that such a document could help anyone obtain official paperwork -- let alone a drink -- the head of 52 Division says there's not much police can do about them.

"If we see it, we generally go down and speak to these people and ask them willingly to stop selling it," says Supt. Aidan Maher. "It's not the manufacturing [that's illegal]. It's the usage.

"If someone is involved with a criminal act and they then falsely identify themselves, then they can be charged."

Fake IDs became a hot button in Toronto's post-Sept. 11 climate when the RCMP linked a downtown copy-shop employee to Osama bin Laden.

In response to a light round of Blame Canada, the federal government will now spend $18 million to issue high-tech identity cards to Canada's landed immigrants that include security features like fingerprinting.

In Michigan, meanwhile, where the drinking age is 21, lawmakers are considering a bill to make even obtaining a fake driver's licence a felony. Creative college students could spend up to a year in prison and Michiganders could be jailed for up to five years.

Even if the Michigan bill passes, there's a whole Internet underworld with an unlimited supply of fake IDs.

"Technology is moving so fast," Republican representative Jennifer Faunce told the Detroit News. "It's changed in just the past six months. [Fake licences] are used to buy cars. Stores can lose tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars because of this."

U.S. federal legislation makes it a crime for Web sites to offer novelty licences, but site after site encourages bogus ID as hobby art.

Fake ID Canada (http://www.quixer.com/canada), for instance, features advice on obtaining paints "to create your own holograms" and "legal supplies to make IDs."

The site includes links "on how to achieve a completely new identity" and offers a "guide to getting real, verifiable (not fake) ID in America and Canada -- birth certificates, social security numbers, driver's licences."

According to quixer.com, "foreign badges and other law enforcement identity supplies," are available at http://www.nic-inc.com. "Ever wanted to be a cop? But couldn't fool anyone with your fake badge, and were too fat to join the force? Now is your chance."

But even if you can use the badges to fool some of the people some of the time, it's never a good idea for anyone to try. "They'd be charged criminally," Maher says.

Anarchy Underground sells IDs for most states from a British Columbia post office box.

"All of my 'novelty' IDs have the proper MLI (Metallic Layered Insignia) for each state that I make," the site's operator writes.

Still, officials don't sound worried.

"I don't know what the advantage to having a novelty ID would be," says RCMP Sgt. Paul Marsh. "Unless it's intended to be or alleged to be an official document, such as a Social Insurance Number or a driver's licence, I can't see a lot to be concerned about."

Back at the head-shop cash register, where I've already paid for my ersatz ID, I'm told to check all of my information. I scan the data, seeing that I now card as Tom Brookens -- a utility infielder with the Detroit Tigers in the 1980s. I see that I have a Carlton Street address and a dodgy SIN, too.

"It's good," I tell him, tucking it in my pocket and getting the hell out of there.

eye - 10.18.01