Minors are often able to buy alcohol online, because many Internet alcohol sellers and shipping companies do not verify the buyer’s age, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recruited eight participants, ages 18 to 20, to try to buy wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages online. They were told to lie about their age when filling out order forms. If they were asked to verify their age by a delivery person, they were instructed to say they were not yet 21, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Participants placed orders at 100 Internet sites, and most deliveries were made by FedEx or United Parcel Service. Of those orders, 45 were successfully made and received. Just 28 orders were rejected because the person placing the order was found to be a minor. The rest of the orders did not go through because there were technical difficulties, or because no one was home at the time of attempted delivery.
The study found 60 percent of online alcohol sellers used weak, if any, age verification. Of the 45 successful orders, half of the sites used no age verification. Age verification at time of delivery was inconsistent, they noted.
“With just a few clicks on their computer or smartphone, kids can order alcohol delivered to their home,” lead researcher Rebecca Williams, PhD, said in a news release. “We were amazed at how easy it was for minors to buy alcohol online. Using their real ID and a prepaid Visa card, they could place an order for alcohol in just a few minutes and often have it delivered to their door in a matter of days without anyone ever trying to verify their age.”
The study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.