Monday, May 10, 2010
Help Me Howard: DMV Privacy
Common sense tells you, never, ever turn all your confidential information over to anyone. But what would you say if the state of Florida says, ''Give it all to us. We will store it safely. Trust us." One woman's response? A call to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you are a fan of Winterfest, you may not know Anita McIlvaine, but you might recognize her boat.
Anita McIlvaine: "We're in the boat parades every year and pretty much win every year since 2004."
Wins awards on her Bimini Twist by putting on a show as they float down the Intercoastal.
Anita McIlvaine: "We always pick the right kind of music that the crowd loves, and we just really get into it."
Anita likes to show off her boat. But when it comes to her personal information, she believes in keeping it secret.
Anita McIlvaine: "I'm really concerned about putting all my personal information into one place."
Anita is referring to the new rules to renew your Florida driver's license.
Anita McIlvaine: "I don't want to give that to them."
To renew your license, the Department of Motor Vehicles now requires a certified copy of your birth certificate or passport, your original social security number and two proofs of your home address.
The state then scans that information and keeps it in their files.
Anita McIlvaine: "I'm happy to prove who I am, but I just think that it's risky putting all that information into one place."
Anita's fears escalated a few days later, when her friend gave the state all that information to renew his license, and guess what happened?
Anita McIlvaine: "Within about three or four days after this, he was hit with identity theft."
Around the same time, Anita renewed her car registration online: had to give the state her social security number, date of birth and credit card number. And then...
Anita McIlvaine: "My bank contacted me and basically said, 'Hey, there's irregular activity on your card, and they were trying to charge, like, over $1,000 worth of stuff.'"
Anita is not saying a state employee had anything to do with either incident. But she believes allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to store all the confidential information is making thefts of that information inevitable.
Anita McIlvaine: "I'm panicked. I'm scared. I really worry about it."
Well Howard, we have always been told, don't turn your confidential information to anyone. So do you have to now turn it all over to the state to keep on file?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes. But don't blame the state. This is life after 9/11. It's the result of a federal law that is designed to stop terrorists from getting fake identities. It's not foolproof, but the more hurdles you put up, the tougher you make it for a terrorist. Unfortunately, storing all this information could open honest people up to identity theft."
When we spoke to the Department of Motor Vehicles, they told us, your private information is scanned and stored in the department's secure database, that they go to great lengths to protect your information. They said, you don't have to allow them to scan it and store it. But if you don't, you won't get a driver's license. That driving is a privelege, not a right. Finally, we asked if they had the right to sell your driver's license info. The answer is yes.
Howard Finkelstein: "The state can release your information based on who is requesting it. For example, they can sell your name, address and phone number to a tow company. They can give your social security number and date of birth to police. The danger is the people getting your information. They could use it for the wrong purposes."
The state will tell you they can keep your information secure. But Anita realizes like the rest of us, it only takes one crooked employee or one crafty crook to bypass the best security.
Anita McIlvaine: "Thieves are getting smarter and smarter, and now, we're putting all of this information in one place."
Patrick Fraser: "No system is foolproof, but the politicians have to balance protecting Americans from terrorists versus exposing Americans to crooks. If you have to renew your license this year, start collecting your paperwork now."
Someone taken license with your liberties? Feel like your days of security are numbered? Contact us. At least you won't have to worry about it being confidential, because we will put it on TV.