EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Going out on Eau Claire's infamous Water Street is a rite of passage for college students in our area.
But lately, more and more, young partiers are getting into those bars illegally.
Of course, fake IDs have been around for ages.
But because of the internet, getting fake identification into the hands of minors is easier than ever, not to mention more sophisticated.
Water Street: It's the place local students go to celebrate college life.
But underneath the good times lies something sinister.
“Everybody drinks when you're 19 and 20 years old,” said Tanner Duncan, a local college student.
So how do the underagers get the booze?
Not just family and friends anymore.
“We found this place online that allowed us to get fake IDs so we could do whatever anyone that’s underage wanted to do,” said “Dave”.
“Dave” is a local college student who doesn't want his identity revealed.
He's 21 now, but back when he was 19, Dave and his friends turned to a website called ID Chief.
They placed their orders with the China-based company and three weeks later the cards arrived in the mail incognito.
“It was a little tote bag. They were sewed into the bottom part so you had to rip it off and the IDs were under there, and then the other couple were in a chocolate box,” Dave said.
Two fake IDs for only $100.
“Mine was a South Dakota ID, actually; my own picture, signature and everything on there. It looked official and legit,” Dave said.
“I got one; it's a lot easier than trying to find someone to buy you beer,” said Tanner Duncan.
It's a similar story for Duncan and his friends who also used ID Chief to score their fakes when they were around 18 years old.
Both fake ID users say they started out slow.
“I just went to grocery stores real quick because they don't take the time like gas stations or the bars do to actually look at it,” Duncan said.
Then they went full steam ahead to Water Street nightlife.
“It was more of that rush factor, being able to get into bars underage,” Dave said.
The underagers say they fooled bar staff for years.
But it was just a matter of time before the party came to an end.
This past November, Dave said he was caught red-handed by a bouncer at She-nannigans.
“Took me to the front door where there were two police officers sitting there waiting for me,” Dave said.
Duncan said the fun also stopped for him in November when he had too much to drink and passed out in an alley off Water Street.
“Someone came home late that night and weren't too happy to see me and called the cops,” Duncan said.
They were both fined and had their fakes taken away.
The Eau Claire Police Department said every couple weeks, officers go to bars and collect dozens of identification cards.
“Not until this last spring into the summer did I notice manufactured IDs,” said Officer Renee Stoik, who patrols Water St.
Police say the IDs from can be hard to spot, because a person can upload their own picture and personal information and often choose a different state to try to fool checkers.
“We're catching onto it more since we've had a lot of the manufactured ids,” Officer Stoik said.
Officers also have a guide to reference what legit IDs look like across the US and Canada.
“If it's an ID from a different state, they don't come back on file so we know that it's false,” Officer Stoik said.
And of course, if you want a night of fun you have to get past the bouncer.
Brothers Bar on Water St. said it trains staff how to spot them.
“You want to make sure that you always have them take it out of their wallet, because when they can touch and feel it, the thickness of it, how it bends, is there anything wrong with it? Look at the picture, make sure the ID is valid,” said Joshua Aliesch, the Director of Operations for Fortney Companies, which owns Brothers.
Aliesch said when a fake is spotted the checker will hold onto it.
If the suspicious patron objects, police are called.
When WEAU went to Brothers the night of Jan. 25, bouncers confiscated four fakes.
“No one wants minors to be on premise. It puts your liquor license at risk. And we're all learning from everyone up and down the street, ID checkers, from the managers, the owners, saying this is what's going on,” Aliesch said.
The fine for having a false ID: $550.
The fine for drinking underage: $263.
“I'm going to wait until I’m 21. Scared, I don't want another underage fine,” Duncan said.
“The fun times and being able to be out with people older than us, girls, dancing, singing, karaoke, I would say it was worth it,” Dave said.
But those fines can show up on background checks and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire could take disciplinary action on its students.
“In the past years we've seen an increase in the numbers of citations issued for this. Really weight out whether or not the risk of getting caught and all those implications outweigh the rewards of going out and having a good night,” said Officer Kyle Roder.
The website ID Chief was shut down last summer after some concerned US Senators asked the Chinese government to take action.
But there are still other websites out there where you can order a fake ID.