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For Katie Cummings, all it took for her to age two years was $60 and fifteen minutes inside of Dana Ross Studios in Boston’s South End. Two and a half years ago, the college sophomore entered Dana Ross Studios a nervous nineteen year old; minutes later, she exited a twenty one year old in possession of what, to the untrained eye, resembled a Massachusetts identification card ensuring her new age.

“We were in and out really fast. It was like, fill out a form, pay, sit down, have your photo taken, print the ID, and leave,” said Cummings, now 21 and a senior at Stone Hill College in Easton, MA.

Cummings said that she, like a number of her friends who also purchased IDs at the studio, was not aware that the card she purchased was not technically a fake ID. Far from being a clandestine operation, Dana Ross Studios has been open since 1972 and has been selling a variety of identification cards for at least twenty of those years, according to Boston Globe archives. Today, while underage customers like Cummings believe that they have found the hush-hush golden ticket to underage drinking, it turns out they may be the ones being fooled into spending large sums of money on mere novelty items.

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Vendor amp; Id Fake Fakeidvendors Discussion The studio is located on Tremont St., clearly marked with bolded horizontal signs bearing the name, Dana Ross Studios. Multiple cardboard signs taped to the windows remind customers that they are not allowed to take photographs of the interior of the store, whose walls are plastered with old memorabilia and family photographs, presumably of the family who owns the studio. Dozens of identification cards from nearly every state hang on a makeshift wall partitioning off part of the room for a desk area where the lone employee can watch television out of sight. Another makeshift cubicle serves as the photo booth.

Caroline Wilichoski has been an investigator with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for 16 years and said that she went into Dana Ross Studios herself a few years ago to see what sort of product they were selling.

Wilichoski refers to the identification cards sold at the photo studio as “fantasy cards” which she says are neither illegal to sell nor to possess.

“On the back, it pretty much tells you that this is a facsimile, that it’s not real,” Wilichoski says.

This is, in fact, precisely what the cards currently sold at the photo studio say, with “facsimile” being the key word, according to Wilichoski. The back of the cards read, “This card is issued to the holder designated heron solely for identification prior to indicated expiration date. This facsimile identification card shall show the holder’s name, residence, date of birth, sex description, photograph and signature.”

Discussion amp; Fakeidvendors Fake Vendor Id On the front of any one of the many state IDs that they have, is the customer’s information, as filled out on a small square sheet of paper by the customer. Since it is a “fantasy ID,” the customer is not obligated or asked to verify any of the information by showing back-up identification or documentation. A headshot of the customer, taken in the photo cubicle, is printed on the left side of the card, and a smaller, faded version of the same photo appears on the lower right hand corner. A hologram of delicate round emblems saying, “Seal of authenticity” overlay the front of the card.

Cummings says that when she purchased her ID from Dana Ross Studios, she was not aware that her $60 social investment overtly declared itself to be fake. She says she did not realize the implications of “facsimile,” which is little more than a sophisticated synonym for the word “copy.”

Boston Police Officer and spokesperson James Kenneally says that Dana Ross Studios do not warrant the Boston Police Department’s attention because the studio does not have the capability of accurately replicating state identification cards or licenses.

“If they did, it would be a different story,” says Kenneally.

According to both Kenneally and Wilichoski, Dana Ross Studios is not at fault if an underage consumer attempts to use their products to illegally purchase alcohol or enter a bar.

“You try to enter any establishment—restaurants, bars—they should know better,” says Kenneally.

However, while researching an investigative piece for the Boston Herald on identity theft in 2005, reporter Thomas Caywood and his coworker Tom Mashberg discovered that some establishments did not recognize the IDs that they purchased at Dana Ross Studios as illegitimate. The two reporters filled out forms for identification cards at the photo studio using the other’s information and subsequently used the IDs to open credit lines for thousands of dollars under one another’s name.

Vendor Discussion Id Fakeidvendors Fake amp; “The clerks at Home Depot and Old Navy took those cards like it was nothing. They sure thought they were real,” says Caywood. Though he was unable to locate his ID card for the interview, Caywood’s description matches that of the cards still produced at the photo studio.

Caywood could not recall specifically how he and his coworker heard about Dana Ross Studios, but he said that he believed it was via word of mouth. The Herald offices are a short distance from the studio, and Caywood recalled the two men walking there from their building together.

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“It was a little bit of a comedy of errors because we were supposed to be writing down one another’s information, but we made a few mistakes. We may have even swapped papers at one point,” says Caywood.

Caywood, 39, says he has never tried using his ID at a bar or a liquor store.

“I don’t look close to being under 21, so no one would card me or have any reason to question the card that I showed them,” says Caywood.

According to Cummings, both she and her boyfriend successfully presented their Dana Ross Studios ID card to pass for 21 for a year and a half before they were taken away. Cummings said that she chose to use hers only at certain locations that she felt were low-risk.

“I couldn’t believe it—we got away with it for so long,” says Cummings.

Cummings says she used her ID card to go to bars in Providence a handful of times, but that she mainly used it to buy alcohol at a liquor store she knew was rumored to accept fake IDs.

“They were so sketchy. They would sell liquor to anyone,” Cummings says.

Cummings’ ID was eventually taken away when she attempted to use it to enter a pub on Cape Cod. Her boyfriend’s was confiscated when he got pulled over and the officer noticed it tucked in his wallet. Neither of the two were fined or otherwise punished for being found in possession of the cards.

When Paul Carew, the head doorman at the Whitehorse Tavern in Allston, is presented with a Michigan identification card produced from Dana Ross Studios, he smiles slowly. Carew, 30, has worked at the popular college bar for a little over a year now and swiftly and accurately identifies the rectangular piece of plastic as illegitimate.

“Yeah, I’ve seen IDs like this before. They’re a joke,” Carew says, chuckling.

Carew estimates that he has seen “well over 20 or so” ID cards very similar to the one purchased at Dana Ross Studios. He does not bother to turn the card over to verify its authenticity, saying that he does not need to.

All doormen at The Whitehorse Tavern are trained to recognize the authentic background images, holograms, UV overlays, and coloring that corresponds with each state. In a situation where the doorman is not sure whether or not an ID is legitimate, the bar keeps a 96-page government-issued booklet, I.D. Checking Guide 2009: United States and Canada Edition which has pictures and detailed descriptions of old and new formats of identification cards and licenses from each state and every Canadian province.

When asked whether he knows what a “facsimile” is, Carew responds that he is not familiar with the term. Carew says that he has also never heard of Dana Ross Studios.

“We don’t ask where fake IDs are from. Though, sometimes, if they’re especially bad, we’ll ask how much they paid, just for a chuckle,” says Carew.

Carew has seen IDs that have cost underage hopefuls from $100 to $200. Prices at Dana Ross Studios are not quite as steep.

“What are they, $65 now? It’s a lot of money for a fantasy card,” says Wilichoski.

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