It seemed like a harmless way to score some beer. But prosecutors say the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., teens who handed over their names, birth dates, pictures, and signatures to a China-based company in exchange for sophisticated fake IDs are in for a lifetime of debt.
City police announced April 3 the arrests of 14 teenagers, most of them Saratoga Springs High School students, who purchased phony IDs through the now-defunct website ID Chief.
Along with a money order for $75, police said, the teens wired their personal information overseas to people in the business of stealing identities.
In return, the kids got a driver’s license that officials say can fool border patrol and airport security, let alone Caroline Street bouncers. And ID Chief got a cache of personal information they immediately auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“As these kids get older and try to get jobs, try to be stockbrokers, or get a mortgage or credit cards, they will find in 90 percent of the cases that they have thousands in credit card debt, that they will have several mortgages they have yet to pay, holds on their licenses to states they’ve never been to, Interpol holds, because they gave their information to a foreign web-based company,” Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said. “All just to get a beer on Caroline Street.”
The case began March 9, when an 18-year-old bought liquor on his way to a high school hockey game, police said. The young man, Bradley Green, went to the register of a local store with bottles of liquor and a Pennsylvania ID from ID Chief, said Lt. John Catone.
The clerk scanned the license. It checked out. But as Green left the store, another customer told the clerk that Green was in high school. The clerk confronted him. He gave back the liquor, turned over the ID, and left.
Once authorities got their hands on the license, they were stunned at how real the ID looked.
“There was no way you could tell it was fake just by looking at it,” Catone said.
Police soon were looking to speak with 25 other students they believed bought licenses from ID Chief from as far back as last spring.