GETTING a false ID is easier in Oklahoma

Tuesday, November 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Police say many of the students now suspended from TCC may have been using false identities, a crime that's growing in popularity.

In fact, authorities say Oklahoma attracts criminals from other states - who are looking for fake ID's. News on Six reporter Tami Marler says when you're born, you get your own name and a birth certificate. Soon after, a social security number.

Establishing your identity is a lifelong process. Unfortunately, it's gotten too easy to take shortcuts. Legally obtaining a drivers license in Oklahoma is not quite as easy as 1-2-3. You have to provide two forms of valid identification, the tag numbers of all the cars you drive, proof of insurance. Plus, you have to prove you can drive. But a growing number of criminals are manufacturing Oklahoma driver’s licenses.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol's drivers license fraud unit is investigating nearly a thousand cases this year. "This is all made up and they just sign this name and cut it and paste it on there." Tulsa Police detective Scott Wanzer says it's as easy as that. A good desk publisher and scanner is all you need to make a fake drivers license. And Oklahoma has virtually no safeguards to prevent it. "Compared to the 50 states - Oklahoma is pretty close to the bottom on having security features built in to our drivers licenses and ID cards."

Every state but Oklahoma and New Jersey has some kind of computerized security device. A Maryland driver’s license, for example, has several digital security features, making counterfeiting next to impossible. Other states have magnetic strips, bar codes, digitized facial features, holograms or fingerprints. So police say criminals head to the Sooner State for quality forgeries. "Because they know that our drivers license is more easy to duplicate than maybe a state that's nearby that does have security features." Which is why Oklahoma law enforcement officials are pushing for a revamped system that provides some security from identity theft.” You’re never gonna totally eliminate counterfeiting, but the harder we can make it, then the less that crime will be a problem, and the less of the associated crimes that we'll deal with."

In the past, fake drivers licenses were mostly used by under-age people trying to get into bars. More recently, law enforcement officials say they're used to commit some type of fraud. After two years of voting down changes to the drivers license system, last session legislators approved one with digital security features.

It could take years to get the new system in place.