How to Make More Secure ID Cards

Posted October 9, 2012

Security is a common concern for any organization today from school campuses to production facilities. Protecting assets and keeping individuals safe is essential in all organizations. Utilizing ID cards is an efficient and practical way to protect your business, but what really makes an ID secure?

If you where to open your wallet or purse right now you would most likely find several examples of plastic ID cards. The cards may range from a simple printed card from your local grocery store with nothing more than a basic image and barcode, to a government issued driver’s license with a full color photo, encoded information, and protective holograms!

In both of these cases, the ID is meant to accurately identify a specific person. However, one card is a lot easier to replicate while the other contains several layers of security, which greatly reduce counterfeit and forgery attempts. Features like photos, magnetic stripes, or smart card chips on an ID help improve its security and decreases the likelihood of misuse by unauthorized individuals. Incorporating these elements to your ID issuance are the most effective means to protect your employees and business.


Adding a picture to an existing ID card provides an easy extra layer of security. A photo provides a quick means to confirm a person’s identify and authenticate the user. With a photo prevalent on a card, forgery and fraud activities are greatly reduced. One quick look can identify a potential issue and indicate misuse of the card.

Photos are the most basic and common security feature you can put on an ID card and even entry level printers like the Fargo DTC1000 can easily create. They certainly help reduce the possibility of fraudulent card use, but are unfortunately not full proof. With the right equipment, it’s not difficult to create a photo ID and replicate the text information.  However, when  used together with some of the other security options, you’ll have a combination that is difficult to forge or manipulate. The more security options you add to the ID, the harder it is to replicate.


In the context of an ID, barcodes are an easy way to have an account or user ID number printed on the card. The advantage of the barcode is that you can quickly scan the code to identify the user. With the scanner you avoid input errors, increase accuracy, and speed up the verification/check-in process.

From a security standpoint, a barcode is another option that makes forging cards more difficult. You may be able to make a card that looks the same but if you don’t know what is supposed to be in the barcode, it will not scan properly. With a forged ID, a simple scan of the barcode will alert you of conflicting information with the information contained on the card.

Like photos, barcodes require very little change to your printing process but they are normally printed on the back of a card so a double sided printer like the Datacard SD360 will be a great unit to work with.

Magnetic Stripes

If you’ve ever looked at the back of a credit or debit card, you’ve seen a magnetic stripe (magstripe). The thin black bar on your card contains information about your account and identity. Similar to audio tape, a magstripe modifies the magnetism of the band to encode information. Normally, this information is a unique user ID for quick identification with a simple swipe.

Magstripes were created specifically as a security measure and have been on ID cards since they were first designed in the 1960’s. Like barcodes, magstripes are a great way to store information that can only be read by a dedicated reader. Forging a magstripe card is even more difficult though since your printer has to have a magnetic encoder, like the Fargo DTC4000, as opposed to just basic printing. Plus, with a readable magstripe you can easily use your ID cards for access control and attendance tracking.  Magstripes may be one of the oldest security options but continue to be used for their reliability and simplicity.


We’ve all seen holograms on a variety of cards, but your driver’s license is the most common one you use on an everyday basis. Holograms are a great way to make a very unique ID that is easy to visually validate and difficult to forge. With a quick glance, you can tell right away if an ID is legitimate or a fake.

Embedding a hologram onto an ID card is part of the printing process. However, the holograms are not actually printed onto the card. The hologram is contained on special clear overlay laminate that already contains the fixed hologram pattern. Once the card is printed, the laminate is applied to the card which adds the hologram without obstructing your printed information.  Not all printers can supoprt lamination though so you’ll wnat to make sure your unit can like the Datacard SP75

Since the hologram is already in the laminate you use, all you have to do is choose one that fits your application. Hologram laminates are available with a host of text and image options and can even be custom made for greater uniqueness.

Making Secure ID Cards

To get the most out of your ID cards, you’ll need to start with cards you can count on. Combining several of the covered security options is your best route for the most secure IDs possible. With a few simple changes to your current printing process, you can be making better, more secure cards in no time. \

For more information on finding the right printer or making ID cards, contact us at Barcodes Inc.

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