By Eisen Teo & Phyllis Wan
IT BOASTS the printing of fliers and brochures among its services.
But it is the PVC ID card business that is attracting teens to a small Bencoolen Street shop - where a passport to the previously inaccessible is only 20 minutes away.
The mere mention of 'ID cards' is all that is needed to get the middle-aged, bespectacled proprietor to reach under the counter for a well-worn catalogue of IDs.
IDs from the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles, are more popular, he said.
To 'register', a customer fills in his name and date of birth on a slip of paper. The proprietor then opens the relevant ID template in image editing software Photoshop, and asks the customer to enter the same information.
Photographs are taken on the spot with a small camera. A white piece of cardboard held up by an assistant serves as the backdrop. After 20 minutes of printing and laminating, the ID is ready, for just $30, the going rate for such IDs here.
The shop is well known among teens for its 'don't ask, don't tell' policy and fast, efficient service.
The Straits Times also found a 16-year-old student at a tertiary institution who went into the business herself two months ago.
Using money saved from a part-time job organising events, she spent more than $1,000 on a colour laser printer cum laminator, as well as a stack of blank PVC cards from the United States.
Then she downloaded ID templates and instructions from all over the Internet.
She set up shop in her bedroom, hiding the printer under her bed and buried beneath piles of clothes to keep it a secret from her parents. Since then, she has had seven customers who were charged between $30 and $50 per card.
Both the shop proprietor and the teenager do not see their operations as forgery, which is punishable with a jail term of up to four years, or a fine, or both. They are in it for the money.
'There's a demand for IDs, so I'm just providing customers what they want,' the proprietor said.
The teen agreed: 'The money is good. You can earn a lot if you know how to be smart.'
But what if she got caught?
'I'm very careful. Only the careless get caught.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.