Beware of fake driver’s licenses

Published June 30, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Practically every country has to deal with the scourge of fake driver’s licenses. For some time, these fakes have been laughably bad copies and quite obvious to the trained apprehending officer.

Our current driver’s license is packed with a number of security features to prevent forgery. These include features like a security strip, bar code, holograms, hidden images only seen with a UV light, and even a filter that turns any light shined through into a purple tint.

You can test these yourself on your license (assuming it’s real). One of the easiest ways is to use your mobile phone’s flashlight. Simply shine the light from behind the license. If the light shining through is yellow, the driver’s license is fake. If the light shining through is violet or purple, the driver’s license is authentic.

Another security feature that’s easy to spot is the hologram or even the silver security strip at the back. Finally, the driver’s license also has raised lettering.

What’s become alarming is how the newer fakes have become more sophisticated. Forgers have now figured out how to turn light shining through it purple. Newer fakes also have the key security strip and even hologram embedded into the card. These forgers haven’t figured out all the security features yet, but they’re getting an alarming number of them right.

Nonetheless, even if these fakes pass some of the tests, there’s still one way to easily check if they’re legitimate or not. The LTO has recently deployed its online portal that allows apprehending officers to simply text the LTO service. To check, the officer will simply type LTO LICENSE [driver’s license number] and send it to its system. The system will promptly reply with the validity of the license and any current offenses.

If it’s fake, it won’t be on the system, or the name that comes up won’t even match.

Perhaps the most frightening part is that many motorists might not even be aware they’re getting fakes.

The clever forgers have turned to the internet, especially Facebook, to offer their services, disguising themselves as legitimate LTO agents who can get a “legitimate” license without the hassle of lining up in person and for a fee of from ₱1,500 to ₱3,000.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) assistant secretary, Goddes Hope Libiran, warned against these online scams. However, many continue to patronize them, thinking the high price is worth avoiding the hassle of lining up and the fear of contracting the virus.

Unfortunately, the convenience offered is only shortlived. If you’re caught with a fake license, the penalty is a fine of ₱3,000 and a ban from applying for a legitimate one for one year. In addition, the vehicle the fake license holder is driving when caught may also be impounded.

In stark contrast, an authentic license will cost you less than ₱1,000 in total and take just a few hours out of your day.