Stolen Driver’s License? How to Protect Your Identity and Credit

by Darwin on June 29, 2010

The other day, my wife was at the town pool with the kids (for the first time ironically), and she had her Driver’s License stolen out of her beach bag, presumably because it was in a plastic bag with a few bucks.  She had her guard down because she was sitting with other moms she knew and it’s not the type of community where you generally worry about petty theft, but in retrospect, she recalled one teenage girl sitting a few feet away who seemed to fit the mold (texting away while she was supposed to be watching a kid, acting like kind of a punk, etc).  While all the moms got up to hit the pool out of site of their bags, the teenager was still there and when she returned, said teenager was gone – presumably with the cash and license.

As soon as my wife noticed it was missing, she initially called the pool and asked if it was returned, which unfortunately, it wasn’t.  Occasionally, if someone doesn’t have any use for a license, they’ll keep the cash and toss everything else.  However, we were concerned that if it were sold or fell into the wrong hands, it could be used for some sort of identity theft or fraud of some sort.

What To Do When Your Driver’s License is Stolen

  • Be Careful Driving! First off, it’s illegal in many states to drive without a license.  So, my wife didn’t drive until the day she was headed to the DMV to get a new one figuring that was a manageable risk.  Apparently, you’re allowed 24 hours to produce one (which seems a little counter-intuitive and defeats the purpose of having one on you when the cop wants to see it), but it varies state by state.
  • Online or In-Person? You can actually handle this online in some states like Florida and New York.  Check out your state’s DMV to see which makes the most sense.
  • New License Number? Depending on your state, sometimes they’ll actually generate a new license number for you.  This is helpful in that it draws a distinct line in the sand if someone tries to use your license later for nefarious purposes.
  • Fraud Alerts ASAP – There are two different types of fraud alerts that you should immediately pursue with credit agencies.  First, there’s a short-term fraud alert.  By contacting any one of the three major firms, they are obliged to share this information with the other agencies.  We utilized Experian’s Fraud Reporting (not an affiliate link and the service is FREE) to put a 90 day fraud alert on her account.  What this does is it makes it harder for anyone to obtain credit in her name in the near term.  For instance, if someone wants to open up a new Sears credit card with her license and buy a bunch of big-screen TVs, they won’t be approved for instantaneous credit.  My wife would receive a phone call and the cell we listed and have to authorize the credit approval.  Basically, it slows things down to stop an identity thief from quickly wrecking your credit.  It also increases the likelihood they’ll be caught.  Next, there’s a long-term credit alert which will impose the same restrictions for 7 years.  This provision requires a call or a notice in writing to the agency(ies).
  • Check Those Credit Reports – When initiating the fraud alert, we immediately obtained a free credit report, which is kind of useless now since it was just stolen, but given the account we generated, we’re able to go back and check it and now, under law, each agency must furnish a free report each year anyway, so you could space it out and get a new one every 4 months.

And What of that Teenager?

Admittedly, it is presumptuous and unfair to accuse the teenager of theft with no evidence, so we didn’t try and get the police to investigate the matter further.  Through enough effort, surely they could have dug up who it was or my wife could identify her later in the summer.  However, just to gauge her reaction, my wife does plan on approaching her next time she sees her and objectively relay what happened and say something like, “I lost my license the other day when we met, I was wondering if you happened to see anyone in the area or notice anything abnormal” or something along those lines and see if she freaks out or is genuinely unaware of the situation.  Perhaps she’s just getting a bad rap because of the way she looked, the way she was acting and her age.  But, it was likely her or a mom, leaving for former the most likely explanation.

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Is It Something I Said? | Jackpot Investor
April 1, 2011 at 1:35 am


1 fern July 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I think it was foolish of you not to report this to the police. It’s not your job to determine whether it was the teenage girl or not; let the police do their job. For all you know, the teen girl has a previous record of having done this before. But you wouldn’t know that unless you report it to the police.

Having a police report in hand may protect you if the person who stole the driver’s license later tried to open up fraudulent credit card accounts or whatever with the stolen ID. Credit card issuers, banks and other lenders will want to see evidence that you did, in fact, experience a theft and aren’t making up a story.

Darwin's Finance Reply:

@fern, What evidence is there that she stole anything? Because she’s a teenager? If it were a minority, that would be racism. I don’t know what it’s called here, agism? My wife did speak to the police and an officer came to the house and she mentioned the situation but he didn’t recommend pursuing anything either. First, they’d have to track this person down by my wife’s physical description, next they’d have to have some sort of reasonable suspicion to question her. And undoubtedly, she’d deny it. Then, we’re a litigious society. Are we subject to some sort of lawsuit if she endures all kinds of “mental anguish” as a result of a false accusation? We thought it through and were of the opinion that nothing would come of it anyway. If anything, it was probably a dumb teenage kid looking for a few bucks.

2 fern July 6, 2010 at 7:03 am

I’m not saying the teen did it….or not. My concern was that you file a police report. I wouldn’t wait for the cop to recommend filing a report, becus local PDs are not always fully informed about identity theft issues and they may not be aware of how lenders handle an ID theft claim or why a police report is integral if ID theft occurs down the line.

So again, my concern had nothing to do with whether or not the teen girl did it. Who did it is really not the issue. The important thing is to protect yourself should this incident lead to other things.

3 novatedlease calculator July 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm

The article was in great concern and this was a nice idea. Instinct plays a major role on such incidents but guidelines like this are lot of help. It is always important that protection be our foremost concern because we can never can tell the damage that loosing important documents can bring.

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