A driver’s license is an extremely valuable document that contains important personal information. In most states, a driver’s license displays your name, address, and date of birth, as well as physical characteristics like height, weight, and a photo. A driver’s license can be used to make fraudulent purchases, open bank accounts, and cash checks in the wrong hands.
As more services and systems migrate to digital platforms, data and information is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Although most banks and organizations have cybersecurity software in place, there have been many notable data breaches in recent years. People must be proactive to prevent driver’s license identity theft from happening.
What is Driver’s License Identity Theft?
Driver’s license identity theft is when an unauthorized person gains access to someone’s driver’s license and manipulates the photo, information, or both, to use it as their own or to sell it to someone as a false form of identification. If the person who steals the identity incurs a driving offense or uses the ID to commit a form of fraud, the violation appears on the victim’s record.
In most cases, identity theft occurs when someone’s license is misplaced or stolen. License holders should check regularly that all their identification cards are safe and secure. If your license is missing, you should report it immediately to the police and the Secretary of State’s office.
Keep Your License Safe
As with most crimes, the best way to minimize the effects of identity theft is to take preventative action. Driver’s license holders should be conscious of where their license is, ensuring that it is kept safe at all times. You must also be careful about who you share your license information with.
Avoid Using Your License as Collateral
It’s quite common for forms of identification to be requested as collateral. For example, when you rent an apartment, test drive a car, stay in a hotel, drive around a race track, or rent other forms of high-value equipment, the organization temporarily holds your ID in case any damage or misuse occurs.
Although identification documents may be needed as a form of collateral or a security deposit, avoid using your driver’s license or documents containing sensitive information. It can be beneficial to explain your reasons. By explaining your concerns about identity theft, they should respect your request.
There are a few legitimate reasons for any third-party organization to need your driver’s license. Be very careful who you share this information with and avoid doing so if possible.
Utilize Safe Automated Renewal Options
License holders should make the most of modern technology by using automatic renewal options when their licenses are about to expire. This can reduce the chances of lost driver’s license identity theft as it minimizes the risk of human error in the renewal process. Whether it’s done by phone, email, or web application, utilize this feature where possible. Remember to destroy your old license using a cross-cut shredder once your new one arrives.
Request Your Driving Records Every Year
Sometimes, identity thieves can act subtly to stop you from noticing that your ID is being used fraudulently. A good way of spotting theft is by scanning your records for inconsistencies. In some states, it’s free to request a copy of your driving record, and in most other states, it is quite affordable. It’s good practice to perform this task annually.
Sure Up Your Identity Online
A stolen or lost driver’s license is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identity theft. The information a license contains can be used to gain access to even more confidential data, such as a bank account, email address, or social media account. Shoring up your online identity can prevent your data from being exploited before you even realize your driver’s license information has been stolen.
1. Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit limits access to your financial records, preventing new credit files from being opened. This process is free, and you can unfreeze your credit if you want to open an account.
2. Take Care of Your SSN
Your Social Security Number is one of the most valuable pieces of information regarding your personal data. Keep your SSN as private as possible and only provide it when you’re certain it is necessary. Safely store or destroy any physical paperwork that shows your SSN.
✎ Related: How Can Social Security Identity Theft Occur ➔
3. Prioritizing Password Strength
Always use strong, unique passwords that are unpredictable. Passwords should have at least eight characters, with a mix of upper and lower case, numbers, and non-alphanumeric symbols. It’s good practice to change your passwords twice per year. Use two-factor authentication for accessing important platforms, such as online banking.
4. Use Smart Alerts
Smart alerts from financial institutions can inform you immediately when transactions or changes are made to your account. This gives you the best opportunity to act if fraudulent behavior is detected.
5. Set Security Codes on Mobile
If a driver’s license is physically stolen, the thief may also target your phone. Using fingerprint authentication or security codes prevents a thief from gaining immediate access to your phone and its applications.
What to Do If Driver’s License ID Theft Occurs
Call Your Credit and Debit Card Issuers
Unfortunately, even the most reliable organizations experience data breaches. Whether it’s due to human error, sub-standard security measures, or an advanced security attack, your information may be vulnerable when it’s stored online or within company storage systems. If your data is stolen, it’s vital that you know what to do, so you can act fast and minimize the consequences.
Whether you’ve experienced a lost driver’s license identity theft or information theft due to a data breach, the immediate steps you take are most important.
If your driver’s license is lost or stolen, you must:
- Contact the police and report when, how, and where your license was stolen or lost. This creates an official paper trail for your missing document.
- Report your missing license to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to initiate license replacement proceedings.
- Freeze your credit lines (if you haven’t already done so).
- Monitor all important accounts for unusual activity.
- Consider changing the locks of your home, as your address is on your license.
If your license information is compromised due to a data breach, the organization responsible must contact you. It’s generally beneficial to follow their recommendations, monitor important accounts, and report this information to the DMV.
Take Cybersecurity Seriously
It’s easy to ignore the dangers of a lost driver’s license. It may not seem like a real threat until it occurs. The process of freezing bank accounts, resetting social media platforms, and trying to prevent your information from being compromised following a driver’s license loss or theft can be stressful and costly. From installing computer security software to frequently changing passwords and getting protection services, it’s never been more important to take cybersecurity seriously.
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