Lost driver's license
Your license contains a photo of you, as well as your name, address, age, and other personal details.
In our day-to-day lives, a driver's license does much more than grant us the legal right to operate a motor vehicle—it's a cornerstone of identity verification. The driver's license is our standard passkey to validate who we are, from banking transactions to airport security checks. However, this ubiquity also makes it a prime target for identity thieves. Understanding how criminals exploit this essential ID and knowing the steps to protect it is crucial in the fight against fraud.
How Criminals Get Your Driver’s License
Your driver's license is a treasure trove of personal information. It goes beyond just your name and address; it's an official document with government authority. If someone looks even slightly like you, that photo ID can offer them a convincing disguise. Thieves have several tactics at their disposal:
- Physical Theft: Simple yet effective, this method includes stealing actual licenses from wallets, purses, or mailboxes.
- Online Scams: Duping individuals into uploading their license images under the guise of fake grants or loans applications.
- Hacking: Sophisticated cyber-attacks on government and corporate databases to extract driver's license data en masse.
Why Criminals Want Your Driver’s License
Once in possession of a driver's license, a criminal can weave a web of fraud. They might purchase or lease vehicles, secure loans, obtain insurance, or even impersonate you in legal situations—all of which can have dire financial and legal repercussions for the true license holder. Armed with your driver's license, an identity thief has multiple paths to exploit:
- Opening New Lines of Credit: A fraudster can combine your license details with other stolen data to open credit cards or take out loans in your name.
- Creating Convincing Fakes: Today's fake IDs are sophisticated enough to pass scanners, allowing scammers to roam freely under your identity.
- Renting Vehicles and Properties: Imagine being held liable for a rented property or vehicle you never signed for, leading to legal and financial nightmares.
- Utility Fraud: Your stolen license could be the key to someone else's electricity, gas, or internet service, all billed to you.
- Criminal Identity Theft: This particularly insidious form of fraud can leave you unaware of legal obligations assigned to your name. A scammer, upon any legal encounter, can impersonate you using your driver's license, essentially attributing their offenses—from unpaid fines to court summons—directly to you. The ramifications can be severe, ranging from a damaged reputation to wrongful arrest warrants.
- Medical Identity Theft: With your driver’s license and insurance card, a thief could potentially receive medical treatment on your dime. This type of fraud not only leads to unauthorized use of your health insurance but can also corrupt your medical records with incorrect information about diagnoses, treatments, and medications. The resulting mix-up can have life-threatening implications the next time you require medical attention.
Fortifying Your Identity Against License Theft
Prevention is your best defense in the ongoing battle against identity theft. Here are proactive steps to keep your driver's license safe:
- Be Cautious with Physical ID: Use wallets with clear windows for ID display and never let your license out of sight if removed.
- Resist Picture Requests: When asked for a picture of your license, offer alternative proofs of identity or billing information instead.
- Guard Your License Number: Never disclose your driver's license number during unsolicited calls or communications.
- Quick Action on Theft: If your license is stolen or compromised, report it immediately to establish an official record.
- Monitor and React to Breaches: Should your data be involved in a breach, follow the affected agency's guidelines meticulously to secure your identity.
What to do when you lose your driver’s license?
If you believe that you have lost your driver’s license, there are some important steps that you must take immediately.
- Contact the nearest DMV branch to report it. This federal government portal will take you to the state agency’s website. The state might flag your license number in case someone else tries to use it, or they might suggest that you apply for a replacement license.
- Contact the police. Call the police’s non-emergency line. This is the first thing you want to do if you believe you have been robbed. Even if you don’t think your license was stolen, it is still a good idea to make a police report. Make sure they notate your license number in their report. You can use that later to change your license number. This will help prevent identity theft if your license is found. Tell the police that you would like to file a report. Not only is there a chance that police might find the thief, but the existence of a police report will also help you contest any fraud committed in your name.
- Place a freeze on your credit reports. The information contained on your license could be used by a thief to create a financial account in your name. Seeking a freeze will prevent this from happening, and could protect you from some of the worst consequences of identity theft.
- Notify your state DMV. To prevent thieves from using your license as their own, your state may flag the number so police know that it has been stolen. This will alert law enforcement to be extra careful in identifying a person they may have pulled over.
- Don’t drive until you get a replacement license. You should get a new license as soon as possible, but you absolutely shouldn’t drive without one. Don’t risk additional violations during this stressful time.
- Monitor credit reports. Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name. Some monitoring services and credit card companies now allow you unlimited access to credit information, so you could theoretically check every day.
- Prevent potential check fraud. You also don’t want to have your license number automatically written at the top of your checks because if they were to end up in the wrong hands, it could result in years of check fraud problems. Check fraud is a felony and could lead to a warrant being issued if you are not careful.
Like Credit Reporting Agencies, Check Verification Companies keep track of what checks have been written and attributed to your driver’s license. You can get your reports for free from all three agencies.
- ChexSystems (800) 428-9623
- Certegy (800) 437-5120
- TeleCheck (800) 366-2425