Photocopying most government ID cards is illegal

By Charles Campbell, SPFS

According to recent inquiries and concerns put forth by various industry managers, along with a couple of industry lenders, it seems that many are unaware of the penalties associated with photocopying most government identification issued by the federal government, which is a violation of Title 18, US Code Part I, Chapter 33, Section 701.

This federal legal Code reads, “Whoever manufactures, sells, or possesses any badge, identification card or other insignia of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print, or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card, or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”

Dealership staff are permitted to ask to look at a consumer’s military ID card to verify military affiliation associated with incentive programs, etc., but they are not allowed to photocopy it. For all needs requiring proof of identification, the dealership staff needs to ask for a state driver’s license or other form of acceptable photo identification instead.

The governing thoughts behind such a law is because photocopied military ID cards might be used for counterfeiting purposes, with no real safeguards against it. Because of the access the cards grant, criminal elements and terrorist organizations place obtaining U.S. government identifications at a premium when planning acts against the U.S. military. If a copied military or government identification fell into the wrong hands, it could spell disaster for the Armed Forces and the nation.

This law does NOT apply to medical establishments like hospitals and doctor’s offices who are allowed to make a copy for filing insurance claims. It also doesn’t apply to other government agencies that are using the copied ID to perform official government business.

Therefore, it is important for the dealership to establish and maintain a written policy, generally within the federally mandated Dealership’s Compliance Manual, that prohibits the copying of certain US Government issued ID cards, especially military ID cards.

Charles Campbell, SPFS, is the executive partner of the US Compliance Academy at Trans World Industries, LLC. Along with his extensive experience, over 30 years in the industry, ranging from F & I to General Manager, Charles is a nationally recognized authority in areas of F&I education and Federal rules, laws and regulations that relate to everyday dealership operations.  You may reach Charles at


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