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10 News Investigators discover a formula that could lead to ID theft through driver's licenses

1:42 PM, Nov 18, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- When your state is number one in the nation for identity theft, you would think politicians would enact stronger rules and regulations to keep its citizens' driver's license number a secret.

Well, here in Florida... not so much.

The 10 News Investigators found a computer program that allows anyone to plug in your name and your birth date and poof: there's your 11-digit number. It's legal, it's easy and the state allows it to happen.

"The state shouldn't be in the business of making it easier for folks who want to engage in identity fraud. They ought to make it as hard as they possibly can," said a surprised Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn when we caught up with him and told him his driver's license number.

"Where did you get it? How did you get it?" asked an equally surprised Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

"That's scary, man. I thought it was a little bit harder to steal your identity. That's all it takes?" said Dale Savage, a county worker who was taken aback by the computer trick.

"With the increase in identity theft, you would think the state would be doing a lot more to protect identity. I would hope this is something that the state would consider changing," said former police officer Kevin Beckner. 

While many people agree with the mayor, Savage and Beckner, it appears the Division of Motor Vehicles makes it a piece of cake. The reason it's so easy is Florida has a unique code and if you have a birthday, a name and a middle initial, you can get anybody's driver's license number.

"The person who takes the identity, and is the short-time user who knows he is going to get caught versus the one who acquires the identity and wants to become that individual, that's the one you've got to worry the most about, because it is almost impossible to get rid of it," said Oscar Westerfield, the former Assistant Agent in Charge of the Tampa FBI Office. 

Westerfield maintains having someone's driver license number is a major aid to identity theft.

Westerfield also points out another possible problem: if someone posing as you is arrested, skips bail and then a police officer pulls you over, looks at your real license, you could end up being bars.

"It's shocking that an average person can get private information. That is not good, and I hope officials at the state will take action immediately," said Commissioner Murman.

But until -- and unless -- the legislature takes some action, the only immediate response appears to be the one open to criminals who want to steal your identity... and they can count on the division of motor vehicles as a willing partner. 

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