Criminals are increasingly targeting and misusing driver’s license accounts. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, driver’s license accounts made up 15% of government accounts that were misused or taken over in 2022, up from 4% in 2021.
One obvious way that thieves can get your driver’s license is by stealing your wallet. However, your driver’s license information also can be exposed in data breaches. For example, nearly 10 million driver’s license records were exposed in data breaches in June 2023 at the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles and Oregon Department of Transportation when hackers targeted the MOVEit file sharing service both agencies use.
If thieves get your actual license or even the number, they can do a lot of damage. So it’s important to know what steps to take to protect your personal information and what to do if your driver’s license is lost, stolen or exposed in a data breach.
What can thieves do with a stolen license?
There is enough personal information on your driver’s license that thieves can use it to steal your identity. Then they can apply for credit cards, loans, cell phone service, unemployment benefits and more in your name. They also can create fake IDs and rack up traffic violations or even criminal charges in your name.
Often, data breach victims don’t find out that their driver’s license information has been misused until they go to renew their license and discover that a thief has already renewed it, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. The ITRC 2022 Trends in Identity Report includes several examples:
- A victim who had their license stolen discovered later that the stolen license had been used by someone else to buy a car.
- A victim discovered they had past-due traffic tickets dating back to 2020 for a car that didn’t belong to them.
- A victim whose driver’s license and Social Security numbers were exposed in a data breach discovered someone opened a financial account and credit card with the stolen information and stole funds from the victim’s 401(k) plan.
- A victim discovered a copy of their driver’s license had been used to apply for a loan for a $29,000 motorcycle in the victim’s name.
How to protect your driver’s license information
When you’re out and your license is in your wallet, keep your wallet as close to you as possible. Men should keep their wallet in their front pocket, and women who carry a purse should keep it closed with a zipper or closing mechanism.
Do not provide your driver’s license number or card unless the person requesting it is required by law to ask for it, such as for certain medication or alcohol purchases or airport security. Never provide it in response to an unsolicited call, email or text message, which is a strategy scammers use to get information.
How to detect if your license information has been stolen
Businesses are required by laws in all 50 states to notify customers if their information has been exposed in a data breach. However, these notifications often aren’t sent immediately after breaches are detected – giving thieves time to misuse the information. That’s why it’s a good idea to sign up for identity monitoring.
Use identity monitoring. An identity monitoring service will constantly monitor the Internet and dark web for misuse of your personal information. You can get identity monitoring and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance with the Carefull Financial Safety Service. The service also offers account and credit monitoring, which will alert you if there are any changes or unusual activity on your credit reports. When you sign up for a free 30-day trial with Carefull, you can find out if your personal information has been exposed in any data breaches.
Check your credit report. You also can get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to check for any accounts or lines of credit that you don’t recognize, which could be a sign that someone has stolen your identity.
Get your driving record. Request a copy of your driver history record from your state driver’s licensing agency to see if there are any citations or violations you don’t recognize.
Also, don’t ignore any unusual notifications you get in the mail, such as letters about unemployment benefits you didn’t apply for or court dates for violations you didn’t incur. These likely are signs that someone has stolen your identity.
Steps to take if your license is stolen
Act quickly to limit the damage if your license is lost or stolen or if your information is exposed in a data breach.
File a report with local law enforcement to have a record that your license or identity was stolen. Get a copy of the report because you will need it to contest any fraudulent accounts, traffic violations or criminal activity that occur in your name as a result of your stolen license. You also could ask local law enforcement to check local, state and federal law enforcement data banks to see if there are any warrants for your arrest as a result of someone else using your identity.
Contact your state licensing agency to report that your driver’s license has been lost or stolen. This will allow you to get a replacement license and will help prevent thieves from impersonating you with the stolen license.
Freeze your credit reports at each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—to prevent ID thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name.
See Why You Should Freeze Your Credit Reports to learn more.
Contact businesses or government agencies where fraudulent accounts have been created in your name or your existing accounts have been fraudulently accessed. Let them know that your identity has been stolen and alert them to the fraudulent activity.
Contact the court if there are charges or arrest records in your name as a result of identity theft to ask what steps to take to expunge your record.
Get help. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at 888-400-5530 or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website to get assistance and an identity theft remediation plan.