If your driver’s license is lost or stolen, your first thought will almost certainly be about getting yourself back behind the wheel. That’s perfectly natural and appropriate, because it’s a legitimately high priority. Once you’ve set that in motion, though, your second and third thoughts (and as many more as it takes) should be focused on the potential for identity theft.
Can a Driver’s License Be Used for Identity Theft?
A driver’s license is one of the most basic forms of ID, and having yours fall into the wrong hands is potentially troublesome (that’s why Forbes called it “the biggest prize for an identity thief”) Think about it: How often have you used your driver’s license as a form of identification? How many accounts have you opened? Each and every one of them is an example of how an identity thief might directly use (or more accurately, misuse) your identity:
- Setting up a rental apartment or lease.
- Opening a new bank account.
- Opening a new credit card account, line of credit or other form of loan.
- Taking out a secondary form of identification.
- Getting a cell phone.
- Renting or leasing a vehicle.
At the simplest level, a thief with your driver’s license can simply give it when pulled over, putting blemishes on your driving record and potentially getting you arrested. There’s also a risk of old-fashioned “theft, theft,” since now the thief who took your license knows where you live. Finally, the loss of your driver’s license can lead to more profound and troublesome forms of identity theft.
What To Do When Your License Is Lost or Stolen
The first thing to do is reach out to your state’s DMV and report your license as missing or stolen. From there, each state has its own procedure you’ll need to follow. Some states may offer the option of placing a “flag” or alert on your existing license, but most — like Colorado — do not. You’ll need to review your driving record personally to verify that no one has incurred any fines or violations using your license.
You should also file a police report, especially if you have any reason to believe the license was stolen as opposed to simply misplaced. It helps establish that you’ve taken the necessary steps to inform the authorities, which will work in your favor if or when the existing license is misused. It may not help you immediately if the thief runs up a chain of traffic infractions — in Georgia, for example, you’ll need to have them expunged individually by the court that issued the fine — but it’s a broadly useful step if you need to challenge fraudulent use of your identity at any point in the future.
Don’t simply have your existing license reissued, because that means its information remains valid. Instead, have the state issue you a new license number and cancel the old one. If your old license eventually turns up, that’s fine; just shred it or cut it into unrecognizable pieces. You’ll have caused yourself a bit of inconvenience, but that’s much less damaging than allowing free reign to an identity thief.
Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft can take a number of forms, but the steps you take to protect yourself are consistent no matter how you’ve gotten there.
First, keep a watchful eye for signs that your identity has been stolen and is being actively exploited. These include sudden changes to your credit rating, new accounts being opened or loans being secured, purchases you haven’t made showing up on your accounts, insurance claims being randomly denied (because scammers have already maxed out your coverage with bogus claims) and even disruptions to your mail. They know where you live, after all, and intercepting your mail — or using your driver’s license to put in a redirect notice at USPS — gives them free access to any remaining personal information they might want.
Countering the threat follows an equally well-known series of steps: Closely monitor all of your statements and accounts, alert all three credit bureaus, place a credit freeze or fraud alert at each credit bureau, and (if fraud has already taken place) file an identity theft complaint at the IdentityTheft.gov website. That not only alerts the authorities, it walks you through creating a personalized recovery plan to help you rebuild and minimize the damage after the fraud.
Some Added Peace of Mind (You’re Welcome)
Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to minimize any potential damage from the loss of your driver’s license, you can relax…a little. Just because nothing bad happens in the short term doesn’t mean it never will; sometimes scammers will wait a while — months or even years — to exploit your identity, on the assumption that you’ll stop worrying after a while.
Spokeo doesn’t endorse worrying, which by definition doesn’t accomplish much. Instead, build security-mindedness into your normal routine — by using good passwords and changing them regularly, scrutinizing your bank and credit card statements, ordering a free credit report each year from all three agencies — and then just go ahead and live your life, knowing you’ve done what you can.
If you’d like to give yourself a little extra peace of mind, we’ve got your back. Part of the identity protection that comes with your Spokeo Protect subscription is dark web monitoring, which can warn you when your private information shows up for sale in the internet’s seamy underworld. Knowing your information has been exposed gives you fair warning that trouble’s brewing and gives you time to alert your bank and the credit bureaus.
It’s not a substitute for good habits and personal vigilance, but it can provide that extra little bit of security you need to face life with confidence in the digital era. You’re welcome.
- Forbes – Personal Privacy of Your Driver License
- WFMY News, Greensboro, N.C. – Identity Theft: Stolen Driver’s License Becomes a Nightmare for Triad Woman
- Colorado Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles – Lost or Stolen Identification Card or Driver Licenses
- FinExtra – Understanding and Stopping Criminal Identity Theft
- Georgia Department of Driver Services – Replacements FAQs
- Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General – Identity Theft Corrective Actions Checklist
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission – Fraud Alerts & Credit Freezes: What’s the Difference?