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THE HARTFORD COURANT
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College students in Connecticut and other icy lands will soon be swooping off for spring break. They'll bring swimsuits or skis, sun block and youthful desire. Many also will pack fake identification.

Supply and demand for phony IDs is substantial. News reports from campuses around the nation show student forgers making up to $200 per false ID, and the Internet hosts scores of document-duplicating websites that cater to underage drinkers.

In both amateur and professional operations, the driver's license is the most copied form, although technology has made replication more difficult.

The Connecticut driver's license has several security protections, including holograms; a faded, or "ghosted," photograph of the operator in the lower left corner; a bar code on the back; images that appear only under black light; and other safeguards that officials won't divulge.

State Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Bill Seymour said the state's license is nearly impossible to duplicate, but that has not prevented some Web-based companies from making the promise.

These sites, which tout their foreign locations and immunity from U.S. law, promise realistic copies of licenses from all states. Although they warn that the IDs are "for novelty purposes only," these companies also say their IDs will pass the reality test.

For example, the frequently asked questions section of www.r-e-a-l-i-d.com says, "You are responsible for any legal actions arising as a result of any use, misuse, or abuse from as a result of the cards."

But the site also promises that "each card has an authentic looking design for each state. These designs include bar codes and magnetic strips (where applicable) that will be correctly encoded according to your order form information, so they will scan the correct information."

Materials to make phony driver's licenses and other documents also are widely available and include card stock, license templates, printers, scanners, laminating machines and digital cameras and accessories.

All states ban minors' use of false identification to obtain booze. In Connecticut, misrepresentation carries a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Also, those convicted face suspension of their driving privileges for 150 days.

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a perennial destination for spring breakers, presenting a false identification is a felony that can be punished by up to five years in prison, Sgt. Frank Sousa, a police spokesman, said.

The use of fake IDs, however, has dropped as awareness among bartenders and bouncers has increased, Sousa said. Many bars keep books with images of real licenses from each state and compare them against IDs that patrons present, Sousa said.

"We pretty much allow each bar to police themselves," he said.

Britannica Dynasty Capital Facts com Achievements amp; Abbasid At the University of Connecticut, fake IDs are still a problem, not just on spring break but throughout the year at places near the Storrs campus where students drink, UConn Police Maj. Ron Blicher said.

"As the fake IDs become more advanced, they become more difficult to detect as well," Blicher said.

When they are detected, however, the penalty can be substantial. Blicher said UConn police recently arrested an 18-year-old man charged with presenting a false ID at a package store. One of the charges, second-degree forgery, is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. The law covers not only actual forgery but possession of a document that the bearer knows is forged.

For more information, visit the council's website at www.centurycouncil.org. For a comparison of state laws on underage drinking, visit www.alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov.

Contact Jesse Leavenworth at leavenworth@courant.com

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