Unless you’ve been under a rock, you would be aware that there are thriving underground black markets on the darkweb, offering everything from drugs to shrunken heads for sale. Many of these markets offer the purchaser a new identity.
The difference between buying drugs online and buying a fake ID is that the purchaser of the latter is forced to lose some anonymity. Drug purchasers can use a fake name and a ‘drop’ address, such as a vacant house where they can access the letterbox. When purchasing a licence or passport the purchaser can take the same precautions but must, of course, provide a photograph. So it’s no surprise that potential buyers are wary of anonymous sellers on black market websites. Most people assume the sellers to be scammers, whilst the more paranoid are concerned that law enforcement is creating a honeypot.
One such seller on a marketplace on the darkweb, frustrated at being stonewalled by suspicious potential purchasers, made me a startling offer – he would provide me a NSW driver licence for free to use in an article I’ve been researching on identity theft. An offer too good not to take up.
I provided my photograph and a name and address that would immediately out the licence as fake, especially to any Game of Thrones nerds. The seller offers the licence alone or in conjunction with a forged credit card and Medicare card to make up 100 points of ID.
When it arrived a couple of days later, I admit to being impressed by the quality, but being Victoria-based, I didn’t have a genuine NSW licence with which to compare it. Ex-pat New South Welshpeople claimed it looked very realistic and would fool them. When I finally got hold of a genuine licence, I noticed some differences. At least some can be explained by the difference in time issued, the genuine licence being several years old and somewhat worn, but in total they are:
- the licence fee printed on the back was $2 less than my forgery.
- the genuine licence was issued by ‘Road Traffic Authority’, whereas the forgery was issued by ‘Roads and Maritime services’.
- Both the yellow strip at the top of the licence and the background white used are markedly different, with the forgery having a distinct greenish hue to the yellow.
- The name printed below the photo on the forgery is in white instead of black – doing a Google image search suggests that it is always printed in black.
- There seems to be very slight differences between the fonts, though I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what.
- The Coat of Arms hologram is quite different and the state outline hologram seems to be a little more prominent on the forgery and printed slightly higher up so that the tip goes into the yellow section.
So should you go rooting around the darkweb for your new identity? I doubt it’s worth it. A trip to Khao San Road in Bangkok will provide you with a forgery at a similar cost – airfare and accommodation included. The fake is just that – a fake – and won’t stand up to either forensic scrutiny, nor for any service that inputs the licence into a database. It will probably get you into a pub if you’re underage though, and will stand up to general scrutiny where no database input is required.
There are far more expensive services on the darkweb claiming to offer verifiable passports and licences that go into the RTA database, but so far these have turned out to be scams or unverified claims. There have certainly been cases of corrupt Roads personnel providing fake licences, but kids will more often simply use documents from their older siblings or friends, claiming they’ve lost their proof of age card and getting a new one issued.
Someone who knows what they’re doing could use the fake 100 points as a stepping stone to acquiring a genuine new identity completely anonymously, but I think I’ll save details on that tutorial for a paid article.
Comments about fake IDs – whether you’ve had one, used one, been caught with one – most welcome.
EDIT: I gather from the comments on the blog that the fake I got might be closer to the real deal than I thought. Thank you very much for your input.