FTC Closes Online Fake ID Mill

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An Internet business that sold templates to help produce false identification documents was ordered to halt sales earlier this month by a federal court at the request of the Federal Trade Commission.

According to the FTC, fake IDs are often used to steal someone's identity. Identity thieves buy goods they have no intention of paying for, run up large amounts of debt and destroy the innocent person's credit record.

The FTC complaint alleges that Jeremy Martinez of Tarzana, CA, doing business as Info World, maintained Web sites, including one called "newid", that sold 45 days of access to fake ID templates for $29.99. The site contained "high-quality" templates for the creation of fake California, Georgia, Florida, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Utah, Wisconsin and New York driver licenses. It also contained a birth certificate template, programs to generate barcodes -- required in some states to authenticate driver licenses -- and a program to falsify Social Security numbers.

The FTC alleges that Martinez was deliberately marketing his site to consumers who were surfing the Net in search of fake ID documents. Web sites use meta tags -- hidden words that help search engines identify and index Web site content. Martinez's meta tags included "illegal id," "fake id fraud" and "forging documents," according to the FTC complaint.

The agency alleges that selling the fake ID templates violates the FTC Act and that by providing false ID templates to others, Martinez has provided the "means and instrumentalities" for others to break the law. It has asked the court to permanently bar the deceptive practices and to recover the illegally earned money from the defendant.

"False identification templates ... are used to facilitate fraudulent activity, including identity theft and underage drinking," an FTC complaint filed in U.S. District Court said. "There is no legitimate use for [the] defendant's templates and programs."

The court granted the FTC's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the illegal sale of the fake ID templates, pending trial. The agency will seek a permanent bar on the illegal activity as well as the recovery of the defendant's illegally earned income.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.

"The templates and software sold on this site are there to help people break the law," said Jodie Bernstein, director at the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "They could be used to facilitate underage drinking, illegal driving, passport fraud, voting fraud, and even identity theft. This is a no-brainer: any business that empowers and encourages people to break the law should and will be shut down."

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