|Date:||July 27, 1996|
|Tools:||An unknown HP greyscale scanner and Adobe Photoshop 2.0 on an Apple Macintosh IIci running System 6|
Yep, this is a fake ID, but not one intended or used for any nefarious purposes. On the contrary, it was created to stop the rich from stealing from the poor (or, if not the poor, at least the non-rich). Yep, if Robin Hood had been alive in 1996, he probably would have used a Macintosh.
Okay, enough with the self-aggrandizement. The deal was, my friend Setsuko had had a falling-out with her roommate Mika. Apparently Mika had flipped out, moved out, hadn't left any contact info, and had made threats against Setsuko on the condition of her ever seeing her again.
Okay, well, it happens, right? We've all heard a roommate-from-hell story or two (Lord knows I can tell a few). Well, problem was, Setsuko finished her E.S.L. program at UCI and the time came for her to move out too. So she goes to see about getting her security deposit refund, and they cheerfully inform her that because Mika's name is also on the contract, Setsuko can't get squat without her involvement. Not even her own half.
She tried to reason with them, and explain that she had no way of getting in touch with Mika, and that even if she had, and Mika didn't simply hang up on her / throw away her letter, that she would no doubt throw away her own deposit (as indeed she'd done) in order for Setsuko to lose hers. But the lovely folks at that apartment complex just told her she was S.O.L. unless she could get a note from Mika with her signature and a photo ID, authorizing Setsuko to collect the deposit. When Setsuko told me that last point, of course, wheels in my head started turning...
I explained to her that I certainly had the ability to fake the ID, if Setsuko could fake the note and kanji signature. I took Setsuko's ID from her new college, O.C.C. (don't remember why we didn't use her UCI ID -- perhaps the apartment complex had photocopied those for the girls' file or something), and made a scan of it (click this half-sized PNG image for the full-sized version):
The only scanner I had access to at this time was a greyscale one, but that was fine, since this was supposed to be a (standard) photocopy of the ID. (Before anyone at O.C.C. gets mad at me -- since this isn't a color scan, there's no way anyone could make a real fake ID out of it.)
Using a work copy of Adobe Photoshop 2.0, my first step was to erase Setsuko's headshot from her ID (click this half-sized PNG image for the full-sized version):
I put in the same kind of blotches that were in the real background, not knowing yet exactly how what area Mika's severed head would be taking up. I could have been more seamless in the transition from the real background to my fake background (this being my first time using Photoshop notwithstanding), but since we ended up FAXing the finished product (as I recall), the overall quality was much higher than really necessary.
So the next thing to do was to scan in an appropriate photo of Mika, which thankfully Setsuko had available (click this half-sized PNG image for the full-sized version):
and then isolate her head and paste it onto the ID. I'll duplicate the final product here (click this half-sized PNG image for the full-sized version):
I had to paint in Mika's hair where it was covered by that rectangular white thing she's holding (some piece of baseball game memorabilia, I gather -- the back side of a bumper sticker??). I believe I used the airbrush tool for that. (In retrospect, I should have also applied a slight gaussian blur to the border between her hair and the backdrop, but oh well -- this only had to be good enough for FAX transmission.) The final task here was to adjust the contrast and brightness to match Setsuko's picture on her ID.
The more tricky bit was changing the name on the ID from Setsuko's to Mika's. Some of the letters were available for me to cut & paste, but others I had to create using existing letters as a model. For instance, that weird lopsided "G" is based on their weird lopsided "O".
I also changed the ID numbers on the card to vary from Setsuko's, I guess because we had to FAX in Setsuko's photo ID as well. I also horizontally flipped the bar code so it wouldn't look identical.
So, did it work? You bet. Setsuko got the money that was owed her. I guess she must have gotten Mika's portion as well, but this was not unfair since Mika had stuck Setsuko with the full rent bill for the last month or two at the apartment. Also, according to Setsuko, all the damage to the apartment that was taken out of the deposit (e.g. cigarette burns) was done by Mika. Setsuko never heard from Mika again, nor from the apartment complex, so clearly Mika never attempted to procure her half of the security deposit anyway.
(If anyone from that apartment complex is reading this, please note that the above is a fictional account of what we would have had to do had Mika not luckily cooperated and given Setsuko a signed note with a photocopy of her real ID.)
As a postscript, a few years later a co-worker asked me the rather silly question, "How easy would it be to hack into the DMV's computers?" I asked her what for, and it turned out she (or a friend) was in a situation just like the one Setsuko had found herself in, and needed someone's photo ID. I told her that even if it were (heh) trivially easy to break into the DMV's systems, it would be infinitely less dangerous to just whip out Photoshop. Being familiar with the program, she said she'd go for it, and as far I know, it worked for her too.
So now that I've seen two friends get into this situation, I have to say that the way these contracts are apparently typically written is completely bogus. I'm sure if I said this to an attorney for an apartment complex they'd say it's not always the case that each roommate puts up an equal portion of the deposit, so you can't just give Roommate A 50% of the deposit refund without Roommate B signing off on it. To this I'd say, fine! Then put it in the contract! How difficult would it be to put in text like the following:
The security deposit is $________. Of this amount, ____% was furnished by, and is refundable to _____________________. (tenant A) ____% was furnished by, and is refundable to _____________________. (tenant B) ____% was furnished by, and is refundable to _____________________. (tenant C) ____% was furnished by, and is refundable to _____________________. (tenant D)
The answer? Not difficult in the slightest. The fact that they don't put such language in the contract makes me think they're trying to take advantage of roommate situations that go bad and play "finders keepers" with people's money and be able to use the contract as an excuse. "Hey! Both names are on the contract! What can we do?"
Now that's nefarious.
|Dan Harkless Last modified: April 27, 2004||Validated HTML 4.01 Transitional|