Police and government authorities are investigating online fake ID stores supplying proof-of-age and other cards to Australian under-18s, who use them to buy alcohol and enter bars and clubs.
One popular site that has promoted itself through Facebook ads is Fakies.com.au, which sells a variety of cards with holograms for $60 each. The cards include NSW and Victorian fake student and proof of age cards, which list the date of birth.
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The site's Facebook page — which has 11,805 likes — has messages from dozens of happy customers, many of whom appear to be under 18. None would speak to Fairfax Media.
"Slight backlog in orders, aiming to have them all out by Wednesday," the Fakies page admin posted yesterday.
Neven Gajic, listed as the owner of Fakies.com.au, refused to comment to Fairfax Media unless his name was not published.
More realistic fake NSW driver's licences can be bought from underground black markets on the web. One was obtained by journalist Eileen Ormsby as an experiment for her blog this week.
NSW Hospitality Minister George Souris said he was "most concerned that some unscrupulous person is offering to sell fake identity cards to minors" and he had asked the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing to "investigate this without delay".
"It is also a matter for police," he said.
NSW Police urged people not to buy the cards as the use or possession of them could constitute a criminal offence. It could not say how many people had been caught trying to use one.
Detective Superintendent Colin Dyson, commander of the NSW Police fraud and cybercrime squad, said Fakies.com.au appeared to operate from Victoria and police had referred information regarding the site to Victoria Police.
It is understood Victoria Police are investigating but it declined to comment at this stage.
"The legality or otherwise of making, possessing and using these fake identification instruments is very much dependent on the intention of the maker and user," said Dyson.
"If it is their intention to enter licensed premises using the cards, offences regarding the attempted entry into licensed premises may apply, depending on the jurisdiction and the local licensing laws applicable. There may even be criminal offences that may apply in certain states."
Fakies.com.au has a notice on its site stating that its fake IDs are "strictly for novelty use".
Detective Superintendent Dyson said the cards on Fakies.com.au, while similar to legitimate forms of identification, were not exact copies. This meant the mere production of a card as a means of ID in NSW would not in itself constitute an offence unless it attempted to be a copy of a legitimate card.
"However, if the card presented, was false or misleading in the particulars it bears i.e. name, date of birth etc, and if it was produced to gain a financial advantage or to cause financial disadvantage, then a criminal offence punishable by 5-10 years may have been committed," said Dyson.
Internet marketer Nicholas Lowther, who operates fake ID sites including Fake-ID.com.au from Sydney, said he had stopped producing fake IDs and sold his ID machine after having his site hacked and being harassed and intimidated out of the market by a competitor.
Mr Souris said licensees who did not "diligently check the bona fides of their customers" risked severe penalties.
The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) said minors who use a false proof-of-age document to obtain alcohol were breaking the law and could face a maximum court imposed fine of $2200 or an on-the-sport penalty of $220. Minors caught using fake ID could also have their provisional driver's licence extended for an additional six months.
"Licensees need to ensure that anyone suspected of being a minor is asked to produce acceptable proof-of-age documents with photographs to establish that they are over 18," the OLGR said.
"Acceptable evidence of age documents are specified in the Liquor Act and include a valid driver's licence, a NSW Photo Card issued by Roads and Maritime Services, or a passport."
Licensees in NSW that sell alcohol to those under 18 risk on-the-spot fines of $1100 and a maximum court imposed fine of $11,000 or 12 months imprisonment. After three strikes they risk having their liquor licence suspended or new conditions imposed.