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Why do criminals want your driver’s license?

Our driver’s license holds enough details for criminals to cause serious harm. In a dark web market case study, NordVPN researchers found that driver’s licenses are the third most commonly sold item on the dark web. In this article, discover why criminals target your driver’s license, understand what driver’s license fraud is, and learn what actions to take if your license is lost, stolen, or exposed in a data breach.

Why do criminals want your driver’s license?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is driver’s license fraud?

Driver’s license fraud is a criminal activity that occurs when someone uses another person’s identity, presents fake documents, or finds other ways to obtain a driver’s license or identification card for themselves or someone else. Some common scenarios include:

  • Using another person’s details, such as their name and driver’s license number, to create or alter a license without permission.
  • Making highly convincing counterfeit driver’s licenses that replicate all security features.
  • Altering driver’s license information, like the birth date or photo.
  • Using a real driver’s license that belongs to someone else, pretending it’s their own.

Can someone use your driver’s license for identity theft?

Yes, someone can use your driver’s license for identity theft. Driver’s license fraud is closely linked to driver’s license identity theft. What is identity theft? Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it to commit fraud. Once thieves have your name, address, and date of birth from your driver’s license, they can use this information on darknet markets to steal even more sensitive data, including:

  • Email addresses, logins, and passwords.
  • Social Security numbers.
  • Credit card numbers.
  • Phone numbers.
  • Health insurance details.
  • Education records.
  • Employment history.

Identity thieves often use stolen driver’s licenses to secure credit or enter into contracts because the license acts as official proof of identity, making it easier for them to impersonate you and commit fraud.

What fraud can be committed using a driver’s license?

Besides identity theft, criminals can use your driver’s license to open fraudulent accounts, make unauthorized purchases, rent properties or vehicles, avoid tickets or fines, and create fake IDs. These actions can cause financial loss, damage your credit, and lead to legal troubles.

How do criminals steal driver’s licenses and their data?

Criminals use different ways to steal driver’s licenses and their data. Their main tactics include:

  1. Physical theft. Criminals might steal wallets or purses containing driver’s licenses. They may also steal licenses sent via mail directly from the mailbox (mail theft).
  2. Digital theft. Fraudsters often send emails or messages that trick people into revealing their data, such as their driver’s license details. They may exploit data breaches or use malware to access computers and steal stored personal information.
  3. Social engineering techniques. Threat actors might pose as legitimate institutions to request personal details, such as your driver’s license number. They might also create fake websites that look like official sites, tricking you into entering your personal information.
  4. Cloning and altering. Scammers might use information from the stolen license to create a fake one. They may also change or forge driver’s licenses for fraudulent activities.
  5. Skimming and scanning. Fraudsters might use skimming devices to conduct a skimming attack and capture information from magnetic stripes on driver’s licenses.
  6. Public records. Criminals might access public databases and records that may contain your personal information.

How to know if someone has access to your driver’s license (7 warning signs)

The biggest challenge with driver’s license theft is that victims often remain unaware of the breach until after the damage is done. If you lose your physical license or someone steals it, you’ll notice right away because it’s missing. But if your license information is exposed in a data breach, you might not realize you have a problem until an identity thief:

  • Applies for a loan.
  • Opens a new credit card account
  • Rents an apartment.
  • Takes out an auto loan.
  • Files for unemployment benefits.
  • Spoils your driving record.
  • Commits a crime.

So if you’re wondering how to check if someone is using your identity, stay alert for these seven signs of misuse.

  1. Credit inquiries you don’t recognize. Regularly check your credit reports. If you spot inquiries you didn’t authorize, someone might be using your driver’s license to apply for credit.
  2. Traffic violations in places you haven’t been (or for cars you haven’t driven). Watch for tickets or fines from locations you haven’t visited or for cars you don’t own. Someone might be using your driver’s license during traffic stops.
  3. Strange changes to your records. Regularly review your records with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or similar authorities. Look for any changes to your address or other personal details that you didn’t make.
  4. Notices about data breaches. Be cautious if you get notifications that your information was exposed in a data breach, especially if it includes your driver’s license details.
  5. Errors on your driver’s license report. Request your driver’s license record from the DMV or a similar institution and check for errors or activity that doesn’t match your history.
  6. New accounts or services you didn’t set up. Look out for new credit cards, loans, or utility services in your name that you didn’t open by checking your credit report and monitoring your financial statements. This could be a sign of misuse.
  7. Unexpected bills or collection notices. Pay attention to any bills or collection notices for things you didn’t buy.

What do you do if someone is using your driver’s license information

Discovering that someone is using your driver’s license information to steal your identity can be alarming. However, it’s important to stay calm. If you’re wondering how you should respond to the theft of your identity or what to do if someone has your driver’s license number, follow these steps:

Report to the DMV or a similar authority

If you discover someone is using your driver’s license information, the first step is to visit your state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or equivalent authority’s website and report your license as lost or stolen. It can issue a new license with a different number to protect your identity. This step can also prevent identity thieves from using your license or obtaining a new one in your name.

Ask the DMV or a similar authority to flag your license number for potential fraud. This flag alerts law enforcement agencies that your ID has been compromised. If criminals are pulled over using your license number, law enforcement will see the flag and require them to provide additional identity verification.

File a police report

File a police report at your local station as soon as you realize your driver’s license is missing or if you suspect someone is using your license data. This creates an official record, making it easier to dispute fraudulent activities that occur after the report. Filing this report helps protect you by officially documenting the data theft or misuse, which can be crucial in clearing your name of charges or violations linked to the robbery.

Notify the FTC or a similar authority

You don’t need to report a lost or stolen driver’s license to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or an equivalent authority. However, if your lost wallet contains your Social Security card, credit or debit card, or banking details, you might be at risk for identity theft. In that case, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission or a similar authority. It will provide an affidavit that you can send to your financial institutions to help resolve fraudulent activities conducted under your name.

Contact credit bureaus

If you’re in the US, contact the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) to flag your account for potential fraud. If you’re outside the US, contact your country’s national credit bureau or the relevant financial authority. Place a fraud alert or credit freeze to prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name and monitor your credit history closely.

Also, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can place a one-year fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert requires creditors to verify your identity before approving any new credit or loans in your name.

Dispute fraudulent accounts

Contact the banks or financial institutions behind the fraudulent credit card or loan accounts opened in your name. Explain that you didn’t apply for these accounts and are a victim of identity theft. They will likely require you to verify your identity, provide documentation such as a police report or an FTC Identity Theft Report, and they will conduct an investigation. Once the fraud is confirmed, they will close the accounts.

How to prevent driver’s license identity theft

Your driver’s license holds critical information that can be exploited for identity theft. To protect yourself, follow the tips below.

Report a stolen or lost driver’s license ASAP

If your driver’s license is lost or stolen, immediately report it to the DMV or a similar authority. They can issue you a replacement license with a different number. Also, file a police report to record the loss or theft officially.

Secure your driver’s license and other identity documents

Keep your driver’s license in a safe place and carry it only when necessary. When you have it with you, make sure it’s secure in a pocket or a wallet. Avoid sharing your license information with anyone you don’t trust.

Monitor your credit report and accounts

Regularly check your credit report to identify any unauthorized accounts or credit inquiries. You can get a free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies via, totaling three free credit reports each year.

If you’re outside the US, check with your local financial or consumer protection agency to find out how you can get your credit report. Similar to the US, many countries offer free access to credit reports once a year.

Use identity theft protection services

Sign up for powerful identity theft protection services that monitor your personal information and alert you to suspicious activity. You can also place a credit freeze to stop new accounts from being opened in your name.

Get identity theft insurance

If someone steals your identity, reclaiming it will require time, resources, and money. Identity theft insurance can reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses needed to restore your identity. This coverage may include the costs of replacing lost or stolen IDs and paying for legal assistance to repair your credit.

However, these policies typically do not cover the loss of money or other assets stolen by scammers. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), most individuals who experience financial loss due to identity theft lose at least $500.

Shred documents

Shred any documents with your driver’s license number or personal details before throwing them away. Whether it’s a credit report, a driving record, or an expired ID, you should shred all these documents if you no longer need them. This extra step will prevent thieves from using your information.

Be cautious online

Don’t respond to emails or messages asking for your driver’s license details. Use secure websites when entering personal data. Enable NordVPN’s Threat Protection Pro feature to block dangerous sites and protect your information.

For a free alternative to Threat Protection Pro, which comes with all NordVPN plans, use a link checker to scan URLs before you visit them. This tool detects malware, phishing attacks, botnets, and fake websites.

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