HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- There's a spike in the number of people attempting to use fake IDs in the Friendly City, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department.
Aaron Ludwig, owner of Billy Jack's and Jack Brown's, says fake IDs are a big problem for restaurants. "It's amazing how many you see out there," Ludwig said.
The use of counterfeit IDs. isn't a new problem. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) acknowledged the increasing popularity. Employees follow a number of ABC regulations to spot a fake. Some red flags include having the wrong seal on the card --or the laminate coming off when the ID is bent.
svg Scale File Wikimedia Commons ph Employees throughout the commonwealth go through extensive training to spot these counterfeit IDs. Virginia is one of the toughest alcohol enforcement states in the U.S.
According to Ludwig, the vigilance is for a good reason, if a fake gets though, the business could pay in more ways than one.
"You're talking tens of thousands of dollars that the restaurants will get fined and a lot of times --depending on the offense-- the employees can be arrested," he said. Ludwig believes those who attempt to use fake IDs do not realize the risk they are putting on these businesses.
Although using fake IDs isn't anything new, there is a more recent trend across the nation in just how minors obtain their IDs. Now, many import their IDs through foreign websites which boast IDs that can be scanned and even pass a blacklight test. However, employees are still catching them. The problem, may rest in what happens after they are caught.
"ABC has told us that we are not allowed to take those IDs," said Ludwig. He explained that this frustrates him as an owner.
According to ABC protocol, even if an employee spots a fake, they must return the ID since it is, by law, considered personal property. Should someone leave without their ID, it is then considered abandoned and staff have more flexibility.
Ludwig said his staff follows the letter of the law, yet giving back an unlawful ID feels like the violators only get a slap on the wrist.
Harrisonburg Police Department's Corporal Wayne Westfall wants restaurant staff in the city to recognize how the law would work in such a situation. He said they should follow management policy, but they do have the option of confiscating these fake IDs.
"If it is a fake ID, they most likely are not going to file a complaint that their fake ID was taken but, again, it's up to the business on what they want to do," said Cpl. Westfall.
Westfall warned that anyone caught can be charged with a misdemeanor that could cost at least a $500 fine and six months in jail. Westfall said he understands that the situation can be tricky and advises employees who spot a fake to call HPD.
"If word spread that law enforcement is getting involved and people are getting charged it could definitely curtail the use of fake IDs," he explained.
Westfall agreed that using a fake ID is an under-reported crime. The latest numbers show that in 2015, 15 people were arrested in the city for using false IDs. The year before, 12 were arrested.