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Knowing what to do if you lose your driver's license, commercial driver’s license, or identification card can help you navigate this stressful situation, especially if you become a victim of identity theft. Each year, millions of identity theft victims face consequences that put their reputations and finances at risk while also negatively affecting their mental health.
But don't worry — this article will teach you what steps you can take when your driver’s license has been lost or stolen, including identity theft prevention and mitigation.
How to check if your driver’s license is being used
12 action steps to take if your driver's license is lost or stolen
Lost driver's license FAQs
What can scammers do with your driver’s license?
Scammers who commit identity theft crimes can cause a lot of trouble if they obtain or steal your ID or driver’s license, whether it was due to a stolen wallet or as a result of a data breach. The situation worsens when your Social Security number (SSN), credit card number, and/or other sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) are stolen as well.
Scammers can use your driver's license to pretend to be you and commit the following crimes: driver's license fraud, criminal activity, medical identity theft, mail fraud, credit card theft, making fake IDs, and illegally collecting unemployment benefits.
Driver’s license fraud
Driver's license fraud involves falsifying identity documents like birth certificates or assuming another person's identity to get a valid ID card or driver's license (commercial or non-commercial). If a person doesn't meet the requirements for a driver's license, they may get one illegally.
Most people are also unaware that some states generate your driver's license number using a specific algorithm. If a criminal has the right software that uses the same algorithm, they can accurately guess your driver's license number just by plugging in your full name and date of birth.
When someone is cited or arrested for a crime using another person's name and ID, a criminal record is created in that person's name. For instance, a fraudster who poses as you may be issued a traffic ticket or be taken into custody for stealing a vehicle. A stolen driver’s license can also be used to open bank accounts and credit cards in your name.
Medical identity theft
Medical identity theft happens when someone steals or misuses your sensitive and personal information, like your name, SSN, health insurance, or Medicare number. Without your permission, they can go to a doctor, have a medical procedure, order prescription drugs, get medical equipment and services, and file false Medicare or health insurance claims.
Mail fraud is when someone uses the postal system illegally with the intent to scam or commit other crimes. For example, criminals can steal the identities of several of their victims and use their mailing or home addresses to illegally file for unemployment insurance (UI) and collect several unemployment checks, which are physically taken from their victims’ mailboxes.
They can also commit fraudulent check-washing crimes by stealing your checking account information from a check found in the mail and reusing that account information to pay others. The post office recommends sending any outgoing mail or documents physically inside a post office rather than in a “blue box” for safety.
Credit card theft
Criminals steal credit cards to make fraudulent purchases in a variety of ways. Credit cards are commonly stolen physically from a wallet, but they can also be purchased on the dark web when credit card details have been leaked from a breach (e.g., saved credit card details on an account linked to a breached retailer’s website).
A social engineer can also call, text, or email a victim and pretend to be a family member or friend who has an emergency and needs their credit card information, or a business, like a utility company, and convince the victim that a past-due bill needs to be paid right away in order to get their credit card information. Once their credit card information is stolen, criminals can make fraudulent purchases online or in person.
One method of identity theft is using a fake ID to impersonate another person. This also includes creating a fake ID to pass as someone else or modifying an existing ID.
People commit unemployment identity fraud by using other people's information to get unemployment benefits without their permission. For example, a mail carrier used his delivery route to steal over $250,000 in UI funds by making false claims of COVID-related job losses using his victims’ identities.
How to check if your driver’s license is being used
You can request your official driving record from your state’s agency for issuing driver’s licenses, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to check if your driver’s license has been used, is suspended, or is revoked. You can do this in one of four ways:
- Accessing your local DMV website
- Visiting your closest state DMV office
- Mailing a request form to the DMV
- Calling the DMV to request records
To get this information, you may be asked for your driver's license number and date of birth, and you may have to pay a fee.
Report the loss to the DMV
Reporting a lost driver’s license to the DMV or your state’s agency that issues driver’s licenses can easily be done on their website. You may also report the loss in person or over the phone. If you find out that your driver's license has been used without your permission, you can ask for a new driver's license number.
Address any court summons
You can address any court summons by going to court to prove your innocence and showing proof that you are a victim of identity theft. This court decision can be added to your state’s theft registry, if available.
Check your credit report for any accounts you did not open
You can request a credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies on their websites (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and review each credit report. Be sure to dispute any unauthorized activity you find. You can also obtain free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.
12 action steps to take if your driver's license is lost or stolen
The following are 12 steps you can take if your driver’s license is lost or stolen:
- Report to the DMV that your driver’s license has been lost or stolen.
- Apply for a driver’s license replacement. You can also request a new driver’s license number.
- Check if your driver’s license has been used.
- If you’re an identity theft victim, immediately file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- File a police report of identity theft in your county or city.
- Get credit reports from all three credit bureaus and run a background check.
- Place a credit freeze and fraud alerts on your credit.
- Set up notification alerts with your financial institutions and credit card companies.
- File an identity theft complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and consider getting a P.O. Box.
- Use a dark web monitoring service that checks for your driver’s license and sensitive PII.
- Get a password manager and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) with an authenticator app on all your accounts.
- Delete yourself from the web so criminals cannot track you. Also, delete copies of your driver’s license from your emails, cloud accounts, image hosting sites, and wherever else you may have uploaded it.
Apply for a replacement driver's license at the DMV
You can request and pay for a replacement driver's license at the DMV if yours has been lost or stolen. This can usually be done online, in person, by phone, or by mail.
File a police report
File a police report for identity theft with your local law enforcement or city law enforcement agency. You don't need to know the name of the person who stole your identity. You can just show the police proof that your identity has been stolen, such as letters from debt collectors, bank statements, and any other evidence.
Contact the FTC in case of identity theft
Report the ID theft to the FTC immediately to get an identity theft affidavit. Go to identitytheft.gov and follow the instructions.
Run a background check
Run a background check on yourself only with services that comply with the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and provide a summary of your rights under the FCRA. A self-background check can reveal if identity thieves have committed traffic violations or crimes in your name.
Contact the DMV to report any changes or updates regarding your driver’s license. This includes changing your name, getting a new driver's license, renewing your driver’s license, or moving out of state. If you’re moving out of state, the DMV can also assist you with what to do with your vehicle registration.
Check your current mailing address with USPS
If you are concerned about your mail being tampered with or forwarded to an identity thief's address, go to your local post office and let them know. Sign up for USPS’ free Informed Delivery service to receive photos of your scanned mail before it arrives in your mailbox.
If privacy and security remain a concern, consider signing up for a P.O. Box or a virtual mailing address. Don’t forget to file a change of address (COA) if you’ve moved to a new location.
Regularly review your bank accounts
Regularly review your bank account statements to check for any unauthorized purchases. To stay informed, set up text or email notification alerts with your banks, which can include:
- Large purchase alerts
- ATM transaction alerts
- Low balance alerts
- Transfer alerts
- Deposit alerts
- Fraud alerts (separate from a credit fraud alert)
Create fraud alerts on your credit report
Create fraud alerts on your credit report with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). They might provide a one-year, one-year active-duty military, or seven-year extended fraud alert.
Once you create a fraud report with one of the credit bureaus, you do not need to contact the other two. For example, if you place a fraud alert with Experian, they will automatically forward your fraud alert request to Equifax and TransUnion.
Place a credit freeze
You can place a credit freeze, also known as a “security freeze,” with all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to prevent criminals from opening new lines of credit in your name. Placing a credit freeze will not affect your credit score or existing credit accounts.
Scan the dark web for your license information
Use a dark web monitoring tool that can scan the dark web for your driver's license information. Many dark web scanners don't check for your driver's license number or ID number.
Trend Micro ID Security provides dark web monitoring and scans the dark web for sensitive personal information, like your driver’s license number and other sensitive PII, and will alert you if it’s found on the dark web. Identity Guard is another tool for keeping an eye on the dark web. It can send you dark web alerts when your driver's license number, passport number, or other sensitive information about you has been posted there.
Change your passwords
The following are tips for changing your password:
- Change your passwords on all your accounts immediately to a unique password (not easily guessed) that is at least 8 characters in length.
- Do not reuse the same password for any account. Criminals can access your other accounts once they’ve figured out the password to one account. This is called credential stuffing.
- Enable 2FA on all your accounts to add an extra layer of security, preferably with an authenticator app. Using only a password is dangerous.
- Use a password manager. A password manager is a convenient and effective way to generate and securely store all your passwords in the cloud or offline.
Lost driver's license FAQs
What can someone do with your driver’s license number?
Someone can use your driver's license number to pretend to be you and do things like make a fake driver's license, open bank accounts and credit cards in your name, buy a car, file a tax return, go to a doctor and get prescription drugs or medical equipment, collect unemployment benefits, commit mail fraud, avoid traffic tickets, or even commit horrible crimes in your name.
Can you change your driver's license number if it's stolen?
Yes, you should contact your local DMV and report the loss or theft before changing your license number. The DMV can issue you a new license with a new number.
Is it safe to send your driver's license over email?
No, it is not safe to send your driver's license over email. Don't send it to anyone who makes you feel like you need to send it right away. Scammers often try to trick you by making up fake emergencies.
For special circumstances that require a copy, make sure you have verified the legitimacy of the requester and/or company first and then bring a copy in person. If that's not possible, send it through a secure, password-protected email with an expiration date (like Gmail's confidential mode), a Google Drive folder that only allows access from the recipient's email, or through DocSend. This should only be done in rare cases.
When you lose your driver’s license, the clock is ticking because you could potentially become a victim of identity theft. It’s important to tell the DMV right away if your driver's license is lost or stolen and to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
Once you realize your identity has been stolen, knowing the steps to take — such as filing an identity theft report with the FTC, filing a police report, freezing your credit, and putting up fraud alerts — can help you regain a foothold on your identity. Identity theft awareness can help you minimize or prevent the damage that identity theft can do to your personal life. Check out our identity theft protection guide for more information.