There are many different types of identity cards used around the world. The primary purpose of any such card is to obtain identification. Identification is important to prove access, authority, or even citizenship. Governments and institutions that issue these cards have complete control over what pieces of information will be included.
The Purpose of Identification
Establishments, companies, or people who require others to have valid identification place their trust in said institutions or the government to have done their due diligence while issuing the cards.
Still, carrying an identification card on you doesn’t prove anything in places with tighter security or places of a more sensitive nature. For example, you’d need more than one identification with matching information for banking, travel or gaining access to sensitive areas controlled by various agencies.
Counterfeiting identification cards with the government’s seal is illegal. So is creating your own fake identification or tampering with existing identification.
1. Driving Licenses
Although the main purpose of driving licenses is to authorize people to drive motorized vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, or buses on public roads, they are widely used as the de facto identification in many cases.
The reasoning behind that is if you’ve managed to acquire a driver’s license then chances are, you’re a legit and responsible citizen. It’s easy to access a number of otherwise out-of-bounds services just with a driver’s license.
This prominence of driving licenses is also partly thanks to them being one of the first few identification systems in most regions. People hadn’t really thought of universal IDs at a time. Passports weren’t something everyone had. College cards weren’t permanent.
In comparison, driving licenses didn’t have any of these problems. So historically, they’ve been used so much for basic identification for a large variety of services and amenities that require some sort of authentication that they are synonymous with identification itself. It’s second nature to pull out a driver’s license for many when anyone from a liquor store owner to a cop asks for an ID.
Passports are used for international travel. It’s proof of your nationality. Apart from being a descriptor or identifier, a passport also gives the traveler protection in their travels to and from foreign countries.
You can’t travel outside your country without a passport.
Applying for a passport in most countries usually entails a few background checks on the person as well as their family. It’s pretty normal because passports are the proof of nationality for people who will be representing the country in others.
Passports don’t require any skills unlike driving licenses (which require learning to drive – naturally). They only require background checks and proper documentation (such as other IDs). Sometimes, they might also require a fair deal of patience.
3. Green Cards
Green card holders are lawful permanent residents of the United States. Technically called a permanent resident card, it’s dubbed green card for its greenish tint. A green card establishes a person’s permanent residence in the United States. Immigrants have to show moral behavior and reside in the US for at least 5 years to be eligible for a green card. The green card is a prerequisite to US citizenship in these cases.
On the other hand, any person less than 18 years old automatically becomes a US citizen if at least one of their parents is a US citizen. Green cards allow immigrants to work and live in the US permanently. The alternative would be a temporary stay.
4. Social Security Cards
The social security card is yet another identification for US residents. The social security card is associated with a nine-digit social security number. This number is granted to US citizens as well as permanent and temporary US residents.
The social security number began as a mechanism for tracking individuals for national security reasons. However, it quickly became a generalized identification number that’s used for a myriad of purposes including taxation.
It’s usually applied for by filling out the Form SS-5 – Application for a Social Security Number Card.
Temporary (working) US residents can also apply for an SSN.
There has been much controversy surrounding the usage of social security numbers. For starters, after a long fiasco, certain religious communities were made exempt from the compulsion to obtain a social security number not too long ago.
That’s the reason why not all US residents necessarily have SSNs. However, on the other hand, the Internal Revenue Service requires all corporations to obtain SSNs for all of their employees (or similar identification numbers).
Even today there are certain debates regarding the use of social security cards. For example, the Old Order Amish people have historically fought against the requirement of having a social security number to obtain a hunting license.
Transformation of Social Security Cards
The transformation of social security number cards from a tracking mechanism to a universal identification system happened in the early 70s. In 1972, the message expressly stating that SSNs should not be used for personal identification was removed from the social security cards.
That cemented the authority of the social security number card as the go-to identification method for all types of things.
5. Discount Cards
Discount cards are used by businesses, stores, or even institutions to offer discounted offers to cardholders. Discount cards are not universal. They’re localized to a region or entity and cannot be used elsewhere in most cases. For example, a corporation might issue discount cards to its customers that allow them to receive discounted products, which can range from essentials like medicine to leisure services such as spas or resorts.
There are usually certain limits that bar you from exploiting a discount card.
A maximum monthly discount is the most typical of such limitations. There might also be other types of limitations such as a yearly cap, discount on specific products only, one-time discounts only, or discounts up to a threshold only.
6. Medical ID Cards
Different types of medical ID cards are issued by different medical institutions for their employees such as doctors, nurses, helpers, or other medical workers. These medical ID cards can have different security levels or clearances so that certain people can be limited from accessing certain areas.
Medical ID cards are usually deployed by medical establishments such as hospitals that wish to track their employees and workers to prevent unauthorized access to the premises or parts of the premises. Apart from that they mostly serve no other purpose.
They can be, however, used in place of formal identification. If someone is a certified doctor from a well-recognized hospital chain, for example, they can use their medical ID card in place of a driver’s license, to avail themselves of certain services. Medical identification cards also allow doctors and medical personnel to get clearance or authority in situations where people’s lives or health might be at risk if their medical advice is relevant to the threat’s mitigation.
7. College ID Cards
College cards are issued by colleges to their students. They allow students to avail themselves of certain services such as access to premises or discounts on study material. College ID cards are also required by many software, educational, or other companies to process student-specific discounts.
For example, you can get a copy of an otherwise expensive software for the fraction of its cost if you have a valid college card or student ID. This is of course only possible if the company runs a student-specific discount, which is often the case.
College cards lose their validity if the person passes out of college. That’s why an important part of the details on a college ID card is the date of joining and passing out. Unless renewed for a valid reason (such as a lapsed year), the college ID card will automatically become useless once a student passes out of the college in question.
8. Membership Cards
Clubs, associations, and many establishments have specific membership cards for their members. This is to disallow unauthorized personnel from accessing services the club or association provides. A good example would be a golf course. Golf course members must carry their membership cards on them to access the course and its amenities. Membership cards have no hard and fast rules.
The details, rules of usage, and benefits depend purely on the discretion of the issuing authority. For example, if a luxury service has its own membership card then it can set its own rules. Sometimes, such services have a tiered membership. Some members can upgrade their membership status within the organization, consequently unlocking more perks.
9. Vaccination ID Cards
The COVID-19 pandemic is showing no sign of stopping. With new waves and variants, the virus is an ever-threatening presence. As such, establishments and services such as gyms, schools, airports, public transit, and so on are opting for compulsory vaccination IDs for admitting people.
Vaccination IDs are proof that you have taken your COVID-19 vaccines and are, as a result, no threat to others. The endgame is to improve the safety of the premises as well as other people – while also urging the non-vaccinated folk to take the vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine proof is given in different ways all over the world. For example, in the US, you have paper COVID-19 vaccination IDs. In some parts of the world, government authorities and medical establishments issue vaccination certificates after a successful vaccination. Digital vaccination proofs are the norm in many European countries.
10. Citizenship ID Cards
Countries have their own citizenship cards as well. These are called by different names in different parts of the world. Some like the Algerian Carte Nationale d’Identité are very old (1967) whereas others, such as the Tazkira or eNID in Afghanistan are fairly new (2014).
Nearly all countries have a unique identification system. Some might be as simple as an ID with a name and an address while others might be using more complex identifiers such as retina scans and fingerprints.
World Privacy Forum’s list of national IDs around the world is a great way to look up information on national IDs quickly.
There has been plenty of uproar against many citizenship ID cards. Proponents of privacy often argue that privacy-invading identification systems are a flaw in the societal system and might be misused. For example, recording biometric data in citizenship IDs offers little to no actual benefit. The data can also be easily misused if it falls into the wrong hands.
On the other hand, government agencies often justify such identification systems by making an argument in favor of better tracking. For example, knowing citizens and having their prints can enable secret services or even the cyber police to track down potential threats or criminals more easily and effectively if they have been properly IDed beforehand. It also makes cross-checking easier and keeping a database much more economical.
How These ID Cards Are Counterfeited
Ways to counterfeit, forge, or tamper IDs have been out there for as long as people have had the need. Large black markets exist both offline and online (remarkably on dark web forums) that allow one to acquire fake IDs, blank IDs, or hire fake ID websites online who edit IDs. This is all too common.
Needless to say, partaking in fake ID creation, purchase, or sale is a federal crime in the US. Misusing any piece of an identification document that has the government’s seal on it is a criminal offense. Many get caught either using fake IDs or selling them.
Sometimes, it’s for a fairly simple reason such as college kids using their sibling’s ID or a tampered ID to buy liquor but at other times, the situation is simply too risky to not prosecute, such as recently a Florida couple was charged for traveling to Hawaii using a fake COVID-19 vaccination ID.
ID cards have certain special qualities. Counterfeiters cannot successfully copy all these qualities. The more premium fake IDs are nearly indistinguishable from real ones whereas exactly like the real thing to the naked eye.