Warning comes after state DMV identifies new ID theft danger
By Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski is warning Western New York motorists against posting photographs of their New York state driver licenses on social media after the state DMV warned the practice was leading to identity theft, particularly among the young.
"Your state-issued driver license contains some of the very same information that identity thieves look for: addresses, birth dates, signatures," Jastrzemski said. "In the wrong hands, this information can lead to things like damaged credit and the inability to get loans for people who did nothing more than post what they thought was an innocuous picture on Facebook."
Address information made easily available alongside an individual's photograph could also increase personal safety risks noted Jastrzemski, who worked for the Niagara County Sheriff's Office prior to being elected county clerk.
Jastrzemski was echoing a warning that came from Albany on Tuesday, when state Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan issued a memo, directed primarily at teens, that warned of dangers from posting photographs of identification documents to social media.
"Passing a driver's test is a very exciting time in a young person's life, and the DMV understands why teens are excited to show off their permits and licenses," Egan said. "Just don't make your personal information public in the process. Having your identity stolen and your privacy compromised is not a good way to celebrate getting your driver license."
According to statistics provided Tuesday by the DMV, about 6 percent of identity theft victims are 19 years old and younger. Posts to social media, along with the illicit sale of valid and expired licenses, permits and other identifying documents for use as fake IDs - a common practice among college-age youth - both have been identified by state government as increasing the chances of identity theft.
In addition to the frequently cited danger of credit and finance problems arising from identity theft, the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center noted many individuals discover their driver license information has been compromised when unexplained traffic violations appear on their driving records - something that can impact auto insurance rates.
"We want our motorists, and especially our young motorists who are excited about their new privilege, but inexperienced in life, to think before they make a seemingly innocent online post or tweet that can have really unfortunate and life-altering consequences," Jastrzemski said.
To highlight the dangers associated with a compromised DMV document, he provided a photo of his own driver license with several pieces of personal information redacted.
Roughly half the information on the license had to be blurred out.
"For young people looking to update their status and let their friends know they're now street legal, a picture getting into the driver's side of a car will probably look better than their license photo anyway," Jastrzemski said, laughing. "Just use some common sense out there and keep your private info from falling into the wrong hands."
Jastrzemski went on to urge motorists who have evidence another person has a driver license, registration document or title certificate in their name, or that another person has used their identity and license number for fraudulent purposes, to report the matter to any of Niagara County's three DMVs, where clerks will collect the information in a "Report for Unauthorized Use" form.
Evidence of misuse of DMV documents can include traffic tickets and forged personal checks or other documents containing a license number.
Individuals who believe their identity has been stolen or their private information compromised are also urged to report the matter to law enforcement and notify their bank, lenders and other financial institutions.
The state DMV also urged motorists to review their credit report and their driving record from time to time. Credit reports are available from the three major credit bureaus, while driving records may be obtained at the local DMV.
Niagara County's three DMVs are located at 111 Main St., Lockport; 500 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda; and 1001 11th St., Niagara Falls.