Teenagers attending concerts across the state could find themselves confronted by state investigators from the Department of Motor Vehicles if they flash fake IDs in hopes of purchasing alcohol.

Operation Prevent puts DMV investigators on the ground to detect fake IDs at CMAC in Canandaigua, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Jones Beach, and Lakeview Amphitheater.

“DMV investigators, who are sworn law enforcement officers, have been involved in Operation Prevent for many years,” said PEF member and DMV senior investigator, Katie Bender. “The goal is to curb underage drinking, as well as curb the use of fraudulent documents by those individuals. Additionally, we will conduct enforcement details in conjunction with other local and state police agencies, as well as the State Liquor Authority, at bars.”

Catching these underage drinkers before they can buy alcohol is key and helps save lives.

“We’re trying to reduce and eliminate the chances of a young person driving away from one of these venues intoxicated and then hurting or killing themselves or another person in a crash,” Bender said. “I have also witnessed some of these young people having to be treated by emergency medical personnel due to the over consumption of alcohol.”

Investigators not only detect and prevent teenagers from drinking by seizing their fake IDs, they also examine the fraudulent documents and can identify trends and test out technology that might assist front-end DMV staff when issuing IDs.

As a senior investigator in the License and Registration Unit, Bender works with people throughout the state who have fallen victim to identity theft.

“The victim may have discovered a vehicle in their name that they did not purchase or some other misuse of their license,” Bender said. “We also investigate identity takeover cases, where one person jumps onto another person’s record to assume their identity.”

Bender worked previously in the DMV’s REAL ID Unit, ensuring the accuracy of REAL ID application documents; in the Fraud Unit, investigating cases where an individual holds multiple records or opens cases with fraudulent documents; and at an Auto Theft Site, where she worked to deter the use of stolen parts to repair salvage vehicles.

A PEF member since 2006, Bender took a roundabout way to reach her current position.

“I went to college with the intention of becoming an English teacher or pursuing a career in that field,” she said. “I took one criminal justice class as an elective and I was hooked.” She went on to earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice and worked as a paralegal after graduation. Bender’s parents, who were union members and public servants in county and state government service, encouraged her to explore state jobs. That encouragement led her to where she is today and to PEF.

“I do enjoy my job as a public servant,” she said. “In my current position, I am able to help someone who may be a victim of identity theft by explaining steps they can take to protect themselves, as well as investigate and pursue the perpetrator.”