New York Redesigns Drivers’ Licenses To Try And Curb ID Theft


Hey all you 18- to 20-year-olds who’ve been sneaking into clubs with your older siblings’ IDs: If you live in New York, you’re about to be screwed. The state is going to redesign its drivers’ licenses starting in July, and they are going to be nearly infallible to identity theft and forgery. Using a new production method, IDs will be laser engraved in grayscale on a stiff polycarbonate. Yes, that’s right, grayscale. No more agonizing on what color blouse to wear for your driver’s license photo anymore. Not in New York, anyway.

Officials say the changes, which also include a smaller ghost image of the licensee in a transparent window visible from the front and back, will also serve as a first line of defense against terrorist attacks. New York’s Department of Transportation director if investigations Owen McShane told the New York Times the cost of producing the licenses alone will be a deterrent to potential forgers. The new IDs cost about $1 more per license to produce and print, but the department promises the cost will not be passed on to drivers.

It’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for an inscriber,” Mr. McShane said, referring to the engraving machine. “It’s not something a college student is going to be able to go out and get.” Plus, the material, which is so stiff it apparently sounds like a CD if you dropped, is a “solid, monolithic structure that can’t be separated into layers or tampered with.”

New York’s endeavor isn’t an experiment, either. Virginia introduced the technology into its drivers’ licenses in 2009, and a spokeswoman for the Virginia DMV told the Times the department has yet to see a “credible” forgery of a Virginia license. The one’s who tried ended up with “really awful” impressions.

The new license design isn’t the only way New York is cracking down on identity theft. According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the DMV used facial recognition technology to investigate about 13,000 cases of identity fraud during the past three years, resulting in abut 2,500 arrests. Because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of ways to get a fake ID without relying on a lookalike, and sympathetic, older sibling or cousin nowadays.

Visitors to the site are welcomed by a video that claims, “You’re watching this video because you’re interested in getting a fake ID. Whether you just want to go to the clubs and have drinks with your friends or you want to start a whole new life complete with a new identity, Social Security number, bank accounts, a credit score and more.”

Now that’s creepy. McShane told the Times he has seen amazing levels of sophistication from overseas forgers. They have even shipped fake IDs to underage customers in boxes of shoes.

It’s scary how far they will go” he said. “They’re always trying. But hopefully this will encourage them to try another state.”

Maybe more states need to follow Virginia and New York’s lead. North Carolina plans to introduce its black-and-white polycarbonate license in 2014. The US State Department started the trend back in 2008 with passport cards that can be used to enter the country from Canada, Mexico the Caribbean and Bermuda. Who’s next?