In California’s trade in phony identification documents, Social Security cards run about $20, green cards about $70 and a state driver’s license between $60 and $250, the Los Angeles Times reports. The price jumps for higher-quality documents, such as IDs with magnetic strips containing real information –often from victims of identity theft. As the demand for counterfeit IDs increases, criminal organizations that produce them are increasingly relying on sophisticated technology to expand their operations and thwart authorities.
Even though Los Angeles is considered the epicenter of the fake ID trade, for years the problem didn’t register as a high priority for an already burdened police force. The lack of consistent enforcement allowed the underground industry to build up until it was “out of control,” said police Officer Fernando Flores. That changed in 2003, when two officers were assigned to crack down on counterfeiters. Now, equipped with a new law that will make it a crime to possess equipment used to create fake IDs, prosecutors hope to put more counterfeiters behind bars. Officials acknowledge that making a dent in the thriving and highly profitable trade of fake identification documents won’t be easy because the problem is so widespread.