This week the office of Joe Robach issued a warning to college students returning for the fall semester that purchasing fake IDs is not only illegal, but also increases the chance of becoming a victim of identify fraud. In recent years, investigators from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles have found dozens of examples of underage license holders becoming victims of identity theft after purchasing fraudulent identification online from overseas companies.
“It’s just not worth it — both for the immediate consequences of getting caught with a fake ID and for putting their financial future at risk.” Joe Robach said in a press release issued by his office earlier this week.
Using only a victim’s name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth, criminals can repeatedly open new lines of credit, take money from bank and retirement accounts, get a job, file false tax returns, and even seek medical attention, making it extremely difficult for a victim to recover his or her own records, name, and life.
According to the 2014 Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 18 percent of identity theft victims were ages 20 to 29; about six percent of victims were 19 years old or younger. These age groups are less likely to regularly track bank account and credit card activity, pay for identity theft monitoring services, and use discretion when sharing information on social media, making them more susceptible to identity theft than any other age group.
Through targeted enforcement actions with a variety of law enforcement entities, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles arrests hundreds of people under the age of 21 for possession of false documents each year. Dozens of these individuals have since reported falling victim to identity theft. At one concert last year, 15 people were arrested by Department of Motor Vehicles investigators for possessing fake IDs and three of them later reported that their identities had been compromised. Investigators report that counterfeiters obtain duplicate social security cards, birth certificates, and credit cards, as well as acquire fake licenses through information submitted over the internet.
Most of the people arrested for fraudulent driver licenses or identification cards purchase these documents over the internet from overseas companies. For more than a decade, the Department of Motor Vehicles and its partners in federal and state law enforcement agencies have worked together to crack down on counterfeiters by identifying sources and shutting down their operations, including, most recently, the ID Chief website. The Department of Motor Vehicles continues to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to shut down the operations of many of the companies who have since tried to fill that void.
Joe Robach’s office also noted that identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer complaint categories for the 15th consecutive year in 2014. Nearly 16,000 identity theft complaints across all age groups were logged last year in New York State.