Of the various types of identity theft, traffic violations using someone else’s driver’s license is one of the most common. This occurs because of various reasons; sometimes the offender simply does not want a ticket, while other times the offender may not be able to get a license on their own due to a DUI or similar offense. This is always big trouble for the real owner of the license, especially in the case of DUI charges, as in some states, multiple DUI charges can result in jail time. The DMV often views this type of ticket fraud as identity theft, while driver’s license fraud is its own separate crime entirely. However, often the tactics used to gain access to someone’s license in order to commit either crime are the same.
The methods for stealing someone’s driver’s license can range from a teenager pilfering someone’s purse at home to counterfeiters who profit from selling illegal copies. You license may have only cost you a few bucks, but your good driving record and valid license are worth a lot of money in the wrong hands.
Just as with most forms of identity theft, crimes involving your driver’s license are often hard to detect until something bad happens. However, this does not mean you cannot fight the problem. Once you are aware (or even suspect) that your driver’s license may have been stolen or copied, your state’s DMV has departments set up to assist and combat the problem. Your driver’s license is an official government document and the integrity of government documents in our financial society is extremely important. The problem has become so widespread that many state DMVs no longer place the owner’s Social Security Number on the card. Many DMVs advise driver’s not to carry their Social Security card in the same place as their driver’s license.
The best method of prevention is by obtaining a copy of your driving record. These can usually be purchased from you state’s DMV for less than $10, and will give you immediate insight into where and when your license may have been involved in an incident. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a good idea. The first time I requested my driving record, there was an unpaid speeding ticket attributed to me in a city I’ve never visited. Thankfully, the DMV (often the butt of jokes about being agonizingly slow) helped me get it resolved quickly. In my case, it was an open and shut case, but in many cases of extensive fraud, you will need to file a fraud report with your state’s motor vehicles enforcement office.
Be aware that in the case of fraud, you can (and should) change your driver’s license number. Also, the policies regarding commercial licenses are different from non-commercial in most states. At the very least, getting a new number will create a timeline of when you were aware of the activity and help protect you.
As always, arm yourself with knowledge, visit your state’s DMV website and familiarize yourself with your options.