A lost or stolen driver’s license is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Your driver’s license contains personal information that a criminal can use in many ways, including identity theft.
Each state has its own policies on license replacement. Some may issue you a new license number if yours has been compromised by criminal activity. Other states may require you to keep the same number. Both will typically expect you to submit a police report or other documents confirming the theft.
In each state, there will be a procedure to protect you after a theft. If your license number was compromised in a data breach, there may be additional requirements and the company responsible for the breach may offer you services to help you protect yourself.
What Should I Do if my License Is Stolen?
A driver’s license can be stolen in a physical theft or the license number can be compromised in a data breach. In each case, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Your License Was Stolen
- If your physical license is lost or stolen, report the loss to the police at once. Get the appropriate report and keep it in a safe place. Ask their advice on other steps appropriate to your jurisdiction.
- Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles and report the stolen license. They will tell you how to replace the license and may offer advice on protecting yourself from fraud.
- Consider placing a fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit accounts. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. A freeze will stop all access to your report, which means that you will have to lift the freeze if you want to apply for credit.
Your License Number Was Compromised Digitally
- If your license number is compromised in a data breach, you will probably be notified by the company or agency whose data was compromised. They will give you instructions and advice that may help you protect yourself. They may offer you identity theft protection or other services.
- Inform your state Department of Motor Vehicles that your license number has been compromised.
In either case, monitor your driving record regularly to make sure your license has not been used in a traffic violation. You may also wish to ask the police to recommend a company that can do periodic background checks. You will pay for this service, but it may be worth it if it prevents identity theft.
You’ll also need to replace your license, not for security reasons, but because you won’t be able to drive without it. Contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles for information on the required procedure.
Can I Get a New License Number If Mine Is Compromised?
Some states may issue you a new license number if yours is compromised by criminal action. You will probably have to submit a police report or other documents to verify the loss. In other states, a driver’s license number is permanent and will not be changed.
Ask your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent agency whether you can get a new license number and what documents will be required.
If your state does not change license numbers, ask what steps are recommended to prevent fraudulent use of your license. Many states will place a flag on your number requiring officers to verify the identity of anyone using your license number. This may also apply to you, so you’ll need to carry an extra form of ID when driving.
What Can a Thief Do With My Driver’s License?
There are several ways a thief can use your license if they’ve stolen it, or stolen your license number:
- A thief can use your license or a forged license based on your information to hide their identity when they are pulled over for a traffic violation. You may end up with a warrant for a ticket incurred by someone else.
- A thief may use your stolen documents to take out payday loans or other loans in your name. Many payday loan providers require relatively few documents and they often don’t check them thoroughly.
- An experienced thief may use the information on your card and other stolen documents to build a profile that can be used for identity theft. With the information they have, internet searches may give them your place of employment, your home and office phone numbers, and other critical information.
Stolen information may also be sold and resold, and can be used against you long after it’s stolen.
Prevention is better than cure, especially when you’re looking at identity theft. Consider keeping your driver’s license and credit cards in separate places, and keeping both apart from your cash. That way, a thief is less likely to get all of them.
If you have your license number on your computer or phone, or if you send it through email, be sure your devices and communications are secure. Never keep your Social Security Number in your wallet or in any place that also includes your driver’s license number.
Replacing documents and protecting yourself from identity theft can be a demanding process, especially if you’ve lost multiple documents and you’re dealing with the trauma of being a crime victim at the same time. It’s important to complete the process. Having your license stolen is bad enough; having your identity stolen is worse. If you act quickly, you can protect yourself and make that outcome much less likely.