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It's Saturday night, and you've finally reached the front of the Mel's line. You confidently hand your ID to the bouncer… and he hands it right back, shaking his head. How did he know it was fake? Your friend from NYU said it was super high quality!

As a Barnard Bartender, I've learned that it's actually pretty easy to quickly determine if an ID is fake. Please remember that using a fake is illegal and, as you'll see, they're pretty easy to spot.

With that in mind, here's how us bartenders and bouncers know that your ID isn't legit.

Graphic by Samantha Morgan

1. Name and information aren’t aligned

A real ID will generally have your name, birthday, and address in a column. These will all be aligned, meaning that the first letter in each row lines up with the row above it. You'd be surprised how many sloppy (and not-so-sloppy!) fakes don't have this basic alignment. It's a quick and easy giveaway.

2. Inconsistent fonts

If your name is in one font and your hair color's in another, it's generally fake. Yes, the difference between a dignified Times New Roman and a lackadaisical Comic Sans MS could get you busted. Since real IDs are made to be consistent, the fonts on the card will almost always be the same. Fake IDs are (obviously) not made by standardized machines, and therefore will have some variation.

3. The holograms are always bright

If the holograms on your ID are always visible, it ain't real. The whole point of including holograms is so that someone examining the ID can verify it's real by moving the card back and forth. Holograms that appear when the card moves are real. If your holograms are always nice and bright, even when the ID is sitting flat, it's not real. But nice try!

4. It has rough edges

Many times, bartenders and bouncers will bend the card and inspect the edges. That's because real IDs have smooth, uniform edges. Fake IDs are not printed in the same uniform way as real IDs are, and may have rough edges, have edges with differing smoothness, or even be so flimsy that they come apart.

5. The magnetic strip is transparent under light

This quick test is what separates the actually decent fakes from the real IDs. If a bartender can shine a flashlight on the magnetic strip of your ID and see the light on the other side, it's not real. Sorry, pal.

Just remember, kids: age is temporary, but arrest and fine records are forever. Be careful out there.

Stay tuned for our guide on behavior that gives you away as not ~exactly~ 21. Even if your card jumps all these hurdles, you could blow it by ~*being yourself*~.

Have you ever had a #harrowing fake experience? We want to hear about it! Comment down below, Tweet us, or Snapchat us @CUspectrum.

Juliana Kaplan is a Barnard sophomore and a Spectrum staff writer. She is a Barnard Bartender and would like every reader of this article to Venmo her, because the bartending class was not cheap. You can reach her at or @julianamkaplan.

All gifs courtesy of


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