Published October 11, 2017|3 min read
More bad news for those of us who don't live off the grid: Identity thieves could have our licenses too. The same Equifax breach that exposed the Social Security numbers of more than 145 million people also compromised the driver's license data of 10.9 million Americans, the Wall Street Journal reported. (Equifax did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the Journal article.)
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A Social Security number is as bad as it gets in terms of identity theft, but a scammer can do damage with your driver's license too. An imposter can give your license number at a traffic stop, making you liable for the violation. If the ticket goes unpaid long enough, a judge could wind up issuing a bench warrant for your arrest.
Hackers could also use your driver's license to create a synthetic identity. Synthetic identities combine real stolen data from several sources with fake information (your driver's license, say, plus someone else's Social Security number, plus a made-up name or birthdate) and synthetic identity theft occurs when someone uses that persona to commit fraud. Synthetic ID theft is harder to spot than boilerplate identity theft, given it doesn't match anyone's exact credentials.
How did the identity thieves get access to driver's license data anyway? Well, if you ever disputed your credit report information through Equifax, you may have been asked for your driver's license information to verify your identity. And, as previously disclosed, hackers obtained dispute documents with personal identifying information during the breach.
You can't know for sure if your driver's license was among the 10.9 million that were exposed. (Equifax's breach website lets you know if you were potentially affected; it doesn't list the information on you that might have been pilfered.) But, if you ever filed a dispute with the credit bureau and/or gave them your driver's license number, you should probably change those digits. Which means you probably need to go to the DMV. It's really the only way to make sure your information stays safe going forward.
There are other steps you should take too, since, like basically every other person in the U.S., your Social Security number might have been stolen. Equifax is offering free credit and identity theft monitoring to all consumers in the wake of the breach. Everyone has until the end of January to sign up on EquifaxSecurity2017.com.
The credit bureau's also offering free credit freezes through that same time period. A credit freeze blocks third-parties from checking your credit and keeps hackers from opening fake accounts in your name. Of course, if you want to really prevent any fraudulent activity, you'll probably want to pay for credit freezes at the other major credit bureaus TransUnion and Experian, too. (That's because a third-party could use any of the big three to check your credit, so just freezing your Equifax file leaves you exposed.)
Equifax also plans to launch a tool that lets people control access to their credit report by the end of January 2018 - right when all that other free stuff expires — so keep an eye out for that.
Of course, if you don't want to take Equifax up on its offer, there are paid identity theft protection or identity theft insurance services out there. Or you can DIY some credit monitoring. Check out our full guide to surviving the Equifax data breach.
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