It may be stating the obvious, but in crime fiction the author and characters have to deal with the issue of criminality.

During research for my third book in the ‘Moss Reid’ series I came across numerous dodgy websites offering fake IDs. Yet – as one of my characters notes in passing:

How can you trust somebody who’s in the business of faking stuff – whether it’s fake passports, fake luxury goods or fake orgasms?

The going rate for a fake Irish passport or driving licence is around US$350. Yet prices can range widely; even within the same site a French national ID card might cost $550, while a UK passport would set you back just $195.

The main target market for some sites seems to be young Irish males looking for a cheap (as in the region of €25-€30) ID card for underage drinking or getting into gigs – not just in Ireland but also for other states that have a higher drinking age.

These websites have a very topsy-turvy way of dealing with illegality and their own legal status.

The approach is along the following lines:

Listen, we’re offering fake IDs. But they’re just novelty items. So that makes them perfectly legal. They don’t even have the right writing on the back. We draw the line at fake passports, drivers’ licences or Garda National Age Cards, as this would be illegal – unlike what we are doing. In addition, your fake document is technically not breaking the law because, in order to avoid illegitimate uses, your passport is not reproduced 100% accurately.

So how inaccurate are they? Which bits?

As a consumer, you are being told in advance that the goods you are about to buy are deliberately imperfect.

Are you beginning to smell a rat yet?

Then there’s the payment method: any way will do other than credit cards or Paypal of course. Because these guys prefer cash (“notes not coins”). Or a postal order will do, as long as the payee field is left blank. Or a cheque, money order or bank draft made out to “PRINT”. Some sites even take Bitcoin and Perfect Money.

You wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the FAQs on some of the sites. If these questions are indeed asked frequently, the operators are either highly incompetent (“sorry, we sent you someone else’s card”) or rip-off merchants…

Q: What happens if there’s a mistake on my card?

A: If the mistake is our fault, e.g. wrong card, card printed upside down, blank reverse of card, no UV overlay as ordered etc, we will replace it at no extra cost to you.

Q: I got someone else’s card in the post, what do I do?

A: Please contact us with details of your order using the online form. We will reprint the correct card, and send you a stamped addressed envelope to return the incorrect card to us.

Q: My card never arrived, and I sent away for it ages ago…

Jim Corr and Morrissey

Some of these sites also talk in loving detail and fancy terms about the technical processes involved in creating their wares, and their attention to detail in the “dye sublimation” (thermal printing), “ultraviolet overlays”, embossing, holofoils blah blah blah.

Yet the prose itself on these same sites is often riddled with careless typos when it comes to very basic details such as the title of the documentation (e.g. “UK Vistior’s Permit”) or the Contact page (“Please use form ablove” etc).

Up to last month all the sample ID pics shown on one such site – Irishfakeid.com – featured one James Steven Ignatius Corr. It used actual photos and the real date of birth of Jim Corr of the Corrs.

Either poor Jim must have complained about this shoddy and presumably unuauthorised use of his personal details and his image rights, or his mugshots were putting off potential customers.

Since then, the Jim Corr photos in the samples of the four different types of card have been replaced by a picture of a young woman. The cards give her name as “Stephanie Patrice Morrissey” and her date of birth as 22-05-1959.

Which just happens to be the day that Stephen Patrick Morrissey was born of course.

And even with that fake ID, there’s no way that that this particular young woman would pass for someone in her mid-fifties.

If this were my private detective character Moss Reid, what would he do to track down the scam artists? I’ll try to explain all in a separate post tomorrow morning…