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Your driver's license may not seem like a jackpot for thieves, but it can be used to create fake driver's licenses, open accounts in your name, avoid traffic tickets or collect government benefits such as unemployment checks. Worse, if your license data has been stolen in a data breach, you may not even know it's being misused.
The information from more than 150 million U.S. driver's licenses have been compromised in a data breach or failure to secure a database since 2017, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Add to that the countless driver's licenses that are stolen each year when wallets are pickpocketed or purses snatched. To secure your driver's license information—and your identity—follow the steps below.
What to Do if Your Driver's License Number Is Stolen in a Data Breach
How does your driver's license information wind up in the hands of identity thieves? Your driver's license information may be on file at any number of places: your state's department of motor vehicles, your employer's human resources files, your doctor's office or any other place that's copied it for identification. If any of these places experiences a theft of their physical or digital records, your information could be stolen.
The clearest sign your driver's license credentials are at risk is that you've been notified the information was included in a data breach. If this happens, take the following steps to assess the damage:
- Follow the recommendations in your data breach notification, including changing passwords on affected accounts.
- Run a free dark web scan to see if your information is on the dark web.
- Check your credit report at all three credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Look for accounts you didn't open yourself, credit inquiries you didn't initiate or any problems you don't recognize as yours, such as an account in collections you've never heard of.
- Request a copy of your official driving record from the motor vehicles department now and again at a later date. Thieves may create a fake license using your information and present it as identification during a traffic stop.
- Run a background check on yourself. The human resources department where you work may be able to refer you to a reputable provider. Criminal convictions or arrest warrants that don't apply to you are a sign that someone has been using your identity.
What if Your Actual Driver's License Is Stolen?
Having your driver's license stolen with your wallet or purse is a slightly different issue. The thief may or may not be interested in stealing your identity: They may be looking for cash, valuables or credit cards they can try using immediately. On the other hand, if they are inclined to steal your identity, a stolen purse may contain a trove of material for a fraudster to work with including your credit cards and health insurance information. They'll also gain access to your driver's license, which could cause a variety of issues. Here's what you'll need to do immediately.
Follow these steps:
- File a police report. Make sure to list your driver's license as one of the items missing.
- Contact your state's department of motor vehicles. They will tell you how to proceed to replace your license and what to do about driving until it is replaced.
- File a fraud alert or freeze your credit and continue monitoring your identity. Work fast and you may be able to stop fraud attempts before they can do damage. In most cases, a fraud alert is sufficient, and it's the more convenient option over a credit freeze, which requires more action on your part when you want to submit legitimate applications for credit. There's little justification to do both a fraud alert and a credit freeze.
Consider changing the locks on your doors if thieves got your keys in addition to your wallet. If they have your driver's license, they also have your address.
How to Report Identity Theft and Help Stop It
If your investigation turns up any signs of identity theft, take immediate steps to address it:
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
- Report the theft to your state's motor vehicles department.
- Request a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies. With a fraud alert in place, parties checking your credit will be asked to verify your identity before processing your application for credit.
- You may also request a credit freeze with each of the credit bureaus to prevent companies from performing credit checks needed to open new accounts in your name. Just remember that a credit freeze also blocks companies from accessing your credit report for legitimate applications you've submitted until you "thaw" it.
- Monitor your credit reports, driving record and background check regularly for new signs of identity fraud.
- Consider identity theft protection. Although it may be too late to prevent your information from being stolen this time, identity theft monitoring can make it easier to keep an eye on your accounts and control access to your credit file going forward.
How to Protect Your Personal Information
In the modern world, it's nearly impossible to remove all risk of identity theft, but taking steps to protect your data is always a good practice. Shop safely online and by phone. Be mindful of sharing your personal information, including your driver's license credentials (or your license itself) as well as credit card information, identifiable information like your Social Security number, bank account information, and any other personal information that may be used to take over your accounts or steal your identity.
Often, the best defense against identity theft is early detection. Here, identity protection with Experian IdentityWorks℠ can provide a major assist by continuously monitoring your identity and alerting you at the first sign of trouble. The faster you can detect, report and halt identity crimes, the less damage they're likely to do.