Nova Scotia

Liquor store scanner spots fake IDs in N.S.

A new high-tech approach to catching underage drinkers in Nova Scotia has netted 200 fake identification cards so far.
Each scanner costs about $1,000. ((CBC))
A new high-tech approach to catching underage drinkers in Nova Scotia has netted 200 fake identification cards so far.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. is trying out a scanner that detects bogus IDs and genuine identification cards that have been altered.

The machine reads the front and back of a card and compares it with a database of legitimate cards from around the world. It alerts the clerk if the card is fake.

Rick Perkins, vice-president of business development, said the quality of fake IDs is "fantastic."

"What people can get off the internet is very difficult to tell with the naked eye whether or not it's legitimate," he told CBC News.

The pilot project took place in Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish over six weeks. Approximately 8,100 cards were scanned, and 200 of them turned out to be fake or altered.

That number surprised Perkins.

How does it work?

The ID card is placed under the scanner for 10 seconds. During that time, the computer compares the ID to a database of cards from around the world.

An image of the card appears on a computer screen. The personal information encoded on the bar codes or magnetic stripe on the back is also displayed.

If it's a real ID, the frame around the card is green. If it's not recognized, like if it's an employee ID, the frame is yellow.

If it's a fake version of a genuine ID card, the frame around the screen is red.

"Most people who are coming into the stores are offering legitimate IDs, so 200 out of 8,000 is a little higher than we anticipated," he said.

One machine is on loan to the Clyde Street store in Halifax while the liquor corporation decides whether to expand the program.

It should help clerk Kevin Loftus identify cheaters, though he's getting quite good at spotting them.

"Usually they start trembling, their hands start shaking, and they don't argue with you because they know you're doing the right thing. They don't have anything to say about it because they know it's fake," said Loftus.

Each scanner costs about $1,000, though Perkins said it's possible a bulk buy would bring the price down.

Ideally, there would be a machine in each store. Perkins said the next step is to find out how much it would cost to do that.

Liquor stores still use black light to identify fake cards. ((CBC))

He said the system shouldn't raise any privacy concerns because the scanner doesn't record any personal data.

Meanwhile, liquor stores are still using black light to detect fake IDs, and clerks still question anyone who looks underage.