What Can a Criminal Do With Your Driver’s License?
There are few worse feelings than reaching for your wallet and finding nothing there.
Your wallet is a goldmine for identity thieves. But they’re not just after your credit, debit, or Social Security cards. Your driver’s license can be the key that opens you up to all types of identity theft.
Even worse, you don’t have to have your driver’s license stolen for criminals to use your ID.
2021 was a record year for data breaches. And for the first time ever, more driver’s licenses were stolen than bank account numbers [*].
But what do criminals want with your driver’s license? Here’s what you should do if your driver’s license is stolen, and why you need to act fast.
Why Identity Thieves Want Your Driver’s License
Few people realize that your identity can be stolen with just your ID.
That’s because, for a criminal to steal your identity, they need access to your personally identifiable information (PII). As an official proof of identity, your driver’s license, learner’s permit, or state ID card contains most of your PII on a single piece of plastic, including your:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Driver’s license number
- Physical characteristics
Until recently, some states even included the digits of your Social Security number on your driver’s license.
With even just a few of these pieces of PII, a criminal could commit all sorts of types of identity theft. They could impersonate you at a bank and open a loan in your name, illegally take out government benefits, or even use your identity to avoid warrants or pretend to be a U.S. citizen.
And your wallet doesn’t even need to be lost or stolen for criminals to get access to your driver’s license. Millions of driver’s licenses have been exposed in recent data breaches, including 18 million during the 2017 Equifax breach and another 17 million from Geico in 2021 [*].
Even if you think you just lost your license, it’s important to take steps to secure your identity.
Stolen Driver’s License? Here’s What You Need To Do ASAP
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- File a police report for your stolen license
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report
- Alert the FTC of a potential identity theft
- Check with the USPS to see if anyone changed your mailing address
- Run a background check for criminal activity
- Review your Social Security Statement for abuse
- Replace your stolen driver’s license
- Scan the Dark Web to see if your license numbers are online
- Consider getting identity theft protection
1. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Your first call after your driver’s license is stolen should be to your local DMV office.
Call or go to a driver license office in person and tell them what happened. You may also be able to request a replacement license online depending on what state you live in.
Why contact the DMV first?
If an identity thief has your driver’s license, you want to shut them down fast. The longer the theft goes unreported, the more chance there is they could use your stolen license to:
- Get out of paying for a traffic violation or avoid a warrant out in their name
- Change your address and start receiving your mail (including new credit and debit cards)
- File for unemployment benefits in your name
- Pose as a legal U.S. citizen and gain illegal employment
- Write bad checks in your name and use your license as ID to cash them
While at the DMV, ask them to place a “Verify ID” flag on your license. This alerts law enforcement that the identification card is stolen if a criminal tries to use it.
You should also request a copy of your driving record. This will show you any tickets issued under your name and other outstanding violations such as suspensions and traffic stops.
Finally, also let your employer know if your commercial driver’s license (CDL) was stolen. They need to know in case someone commits crimes or tries to gain other employment using your ID.
2. File a police report for your stolen license
Next, file a police report for your stolen license as soon as possible. Call the non-emergency line for your local law enforcement and tell them what’s happened. They’ll tell you the next steps to take.
Your police report is important as it allows you to dispute any negative remarks on your driving record. It also creates a paper trail that could help you dispute any fraud or credit discrepancies that may show up later.
Even a lost license should be reported. Remember, the effects of identity theft can sometimes take years to surface.
3. Place a fraud alert on your credit report and set up credit monitoring
Your driver’s license can provide enough information for someone to open new credit lines or financial accounts in your name.
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. By law, the credit bureau you reach out to must alert the other two of the alert.
A fraud alert requires businesses and lenders to verify your identity before extending new lines of credit. If a criminal tries to use the information on your driver’s license to commit loan or bank fraud, a freeze will slow them down.
Pro tip: For added security, consider a credit monitoring service that tracks your credit, bank accounts, and identifiable information for signs of fraud.
4. Alert the FTC of a potential identity theft
A stolen driver’s license doesn’t always lead to identity theft. But it very regularly does. Especially if your wallet was stolen with your Social Security card and credit cards inside.
An FTC report can help you prove to businesses that your identity was stolen and you shouldn’t be liable for fraudulent transactions. You’ll also get a customized recovery plan to help you secure any other accounts that might’ve been compromised by the theft.
5. Check with the USPS to see if anyone changed your mailing address
A stolen driver’s license gives a criminal your home address. But what can they do with that?
Criminals use a change-of-address scam to reroute your mail without your knowledge. That way, they receive new credit cards, bank statements, and other sensitive mail they can use for further identity theft.
If you suddenly stop receiving mail or important pieces go missing, contact your local U.S. Postal Service office. If you don’t know the phone number for the local office, call the general line at 1-877-876-2455 and press option “4” to report mail fraud.
You can also report mail scams and fraud online at uspis.gov/report.
6. Run a background check for criminal activity
Criminal identity theft — where someone uses your identity to commit crimes or avoid warrants — is rare. But it becomes more common when someone has access to physical credentials like your driver’s license.
For peace of mind, you should perform a background check to look for any criminal activity, unauthorized debts, and outstanding warrants on your record.
Pro tip: Aura monitors criminal and court records so you’ll be alerted quickly if someone commits crimes using your name.
7. Review your Social Security Statement for abuse
Criminals often use stolen driver’s licenses to claim unemployment benefits in your name or even get hired illegally.
Unemployment and pandemic relief programs like the PPP are a hot target for identity thieves. Fraudulent government benefits claims jumped almost 3000% since the start of the pandemic, according to the FTC [*].
If you want to tell if you’ve been the victim of an unemployment scam, look for these signs:
- A tax form 1099-G for unemployment benefits you didn’t get.
- A letter, text message, or email about benefits you didn’t apply for.
- Jobs or salaries on your Social Security Statement that you don’t recognize.
If you see any of these, contact your state fraud hotline.
8. Replace your stolen driver’s license
Luckily, getting a replacement driver’s license is relatively easy. You should be able to use the DMV’s online services to order a replacement if you don’t want to go to a service center in person.
In both cases, you’ll need to fill out a replacement license application and pay the associated fee. This can be anywhere from $5–$34 depending on which state you live in.
It will take 2–4 weeks for your replacement to show up in the mail. But you can still drive with a temporary license.
There’s one more thing to remember: Your license needs to be in good standing in order to request a new one.
You’ll need to contact the DMV if:
- Your license expires soon. If your expiration date is coming up, you may need to renew your license rather than request a replacement.
- Your license isn’t valid. If you have a suspension on your license from a DUI, reckless driving, or excessive speeding, you’ll need to sort those out first. You may need to attend driver training or driver education and complete a road test. You’ll also need to pay an additional fee if your license expired before it was stolen.
- You’ve moved to another state. You need to replace your license in the state it was issued before applying in your new state of residence.
- You’ve changed your name. A name change requires special consideration. Contact your state DMV to find out what steps you need to take.
If you recover or find your original license, destroy it. It’s prohibited to keep a duplicate driver’s license as a spare or second copy. Plus, you wouldn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
9. Scan the Dark Web to see if your license numbers are online
Over the past few years, millions of driver’s license numbers have been leaked in data breaches.
Even if you recover your license, the numbers could be available to hackers. To see what sensitive information is available online, use Aura’s Identity Guard Dark Web scanner.
If you see accounts and information you recognize, act fast to secure your accounts.
Change passwords to be more secure and set up a password manager and two-factor authentication (2FA). This is a special one-time-use code that is sent to you when you try to log into your accounts.
But don’t use the text (SMS) option as it can be compromised. Instead, use an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Okta.
10. Consider getting identity theft protection
One FAQ after having your license stolen is: Should I get identity theft protection?
A stolen driver’s license is like opening a Pandora’s box of identity theft. It’s not as simple as just reporting your card stolen and getting a new license.
When a criminal has your license and all the information it holds, they can use it to get access to your bank accounts, take out credit cards in your name, file for fraudulent benefits, and even commit crimes.
They can even combine your real information with stolen Social Security numbers to commit synthetic identity fraud.
Even if you have no idea what to do if your identity is stolen, Aura has your back.
Aura is designed to proactively scan your accounts for signs of fraud and protect your identity from criminals. Plus, if your license gets stolen, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.
With Aura, you get:
- Dark Web monitoring. We scan the unseen parts of the internet to alert you if any of your sensitive information has been leaked and is available to hackers.
- Credit monitoring in near-real time. Aura monitors your credit report and bank accounts for any suspicious activity. We’ll let you know 2X faster than the competition.
- SSN and identity monitoring. Aura also keeps track of your SSN and other identifying information. We scan criminal and court records, make sure no one is trying to steal your home title, and get your name off spam call lists.
- VPN with military-grade encryption. Protect your home Wi-Fi network and devices from hackers and malware.
- $1,000,000 insurance policy. Every adult member on an Aura account is covered by a $1 million insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.
The Bottom Line: Stolen Driver’s Licenses Are a Real Risk
When a criminal steals your license, it’s more than a nuisance. It could be like handing them a key to your identity.
As soon as you realize your license is missing, act quickly to inform the DMV, police, and FTC. That way, you’ll have a record of the theft before too much damage is done.
Luckily, the department of homeland security is working to make your ID more secure. The Real ID Act sets minimum security standards for new licenses that should make them harder for criminals to use.
The Real ID act isn’t scheduled to be in place for another few years. Until then, consider Aura for keeping your identity and ID safe and secure. We’ll monitor all your accounts and identifying information so you know as soon as someone is trying to steal your identity or your money.