Hoaxes & Rumors

Obama’s “Foreign Student” Columbia University ID: Real or Fake?

Obama’s “Foreign Student” Columbia University ID: Real or Fake?
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An image allegedly shows Barack Obama’s Columbia University ID which identifies him as a foreign student named “Barry Soetoro.” Is this real or fake?

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It’s Fake.

The scan of an alleged 1981 Columbia University foreign student identification card for Barack Obama has been widely circulated online.

A popular caption for this fake photo reads, “Well well well…. look what’s surfaced. Let’s see how long it takes for it to be taken down. Until then, share the crap out of it!”

“Barry Soetoro” is the name used on the card. For those who may not know, Soetoro was the surname of Barack Obama’s stepfather, yet evidence seems to be lacking that Obama adopted this name during his time at Columbia University.

Although the image has been heavily shared, the source of the image has not been revealed – because it’s fake.

Columbia ID Card Design

Although the card has a date of 1981, this card design did not actually exist at that time. The design featured on the card was first announced in 1996 in the February 2, 1996 edition of the Columbia University Record. The newly designed cards were first issued on March 1, 1996. Previous card designs included the student’s social security number.

Original Card Number and Photograph

The image from which the fake Obama ID image was created belongs to Thomas Lugert, who posted his college ID in an article entitled, My study of the English Language at Columbia University in New York City from Juli 20, 98 – August 14, 98. The scan of his ID card has the same card number, and even the same shadowing in the scan as seen on the fake Obama ID. See the original, full-sized image here. Lugert’s ID was issued in 1998.

The photo of Barack Obama on the fake card does not depict the future President in the early 1980’s, but during his time at Harvard, which he attended from 1988 through 1991.

Bottom Line

The 1981 Obama foreign student ID card has been Photoshopped and is fake. The card design depicted in the image did not exist until 1996, the card number came from an online photo of a student card issued in 1998, and the picture of Barack Obama on the forged ID actually came from the period in which he attended Harvard University (1988-1991).

Updated January 23, 2015
Originally published October 2013

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