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Posted on December 11, 2015 in Crime

Arizona MVD Identity Theft & Prevention Measures

It’s Friday night and your college roommate is going out to the bar, ready to partake in libations after a stressful week. She asks you to join her, but as a minor, you don’t know how you’ll get past security. For future reference, your friend suggests heading to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) to obtain a new ID with an older friend’s information. You could take your own photo and easily use someone else’s identity, she suggests.  But a seemingly easy way to obtaining a fake ID card can carry heavy consequences and this easy action can be considered Arizona MVD identity theft.

Arizona has a database of nearly 7.7 million driver’s license and identification records, with approximately 16 million images, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). But with all these images comes an increase in certain crimes, such as identity theft, criminal impersonation, and fraud.

MVD Identity Theft

Arizona is now ranked 9th overall in the nation when it comes to identity theft, and 16th when it comes to fraud schemes, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission. The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area ranks 25th in city rankings across America.This high ranking could be a result of the process for obtaining an identification card, which seems to be fairly simple in the state. The applicant must prove one’s identity with one primary document, such as a U.S. birth certificate, in addition to two secondary documents, which can include a W-2 form or a bank card. None of these are photo-based documents. The process is affordable – costing the applicant only $12 – and the ID lasts for 12 years.

What may seem like an easy fix for underage college students looking to gain access into a 21 and older world has also invited an increase in crime. The MVD handles approximately 400 cases of forgery fraud or identity theft every year, according to ADOT.

Arizona Identity Theft Prevention Measures

Due to these soaring numbers, Arizona identity theft prevention measures have been put to action in recent years, and the ADOT, specifically, has taken several measures in order to curb identity theft and fraud. In June 2014, the MVD unleashed a newly redesigned driver’s license and a high-security credential format in hopes to decrease Arizona MVD identity theft.

The most recent advancement is ADOT’s deal back in August with Japan-based NEC Corporation of America to implement biometric solutions through NeoFace facial-recognition software. The state reported in July it had gone from noticing nearly 33 cases of potential fraud a month to 320, a number likely to soar once the ADOT accesses the system that says it can scan 6.2 million images per second.

The facial recognition system has produced about 1,600 alerts between February and July and is considered a drastic change from the older Photo First approach system implemented in 2012, under which employees said they had identified about 300 to 400 questionable applications – an average of about 33 a month.If the system finds inconsistencies during the screening process such as a license applicant’s new picture not matching that person’s prior picture in the system, the system flags the applicant. After the applicant is flagged, an ADOT employee is assigned to investigate the case for further review.

Penalties for Identity Theft and Fraud

If fraud is suspected, the department investigates and can take administrative action, usually by suspending your license. A fraud suspension may last between 60 and 364 days. You have fifteen days from the date in the letter you receive from DOL to request a hearing to contest the suspension.
Depending on the circumstances of the offense, penalties for identity theft and fraud carry hefty repercussions in Arizona. Identity theft and fraud lawyers state one can face penalities such as the following:

  • Fines: If you are convicted of a felony, fines could reach up to $150,000
  • Incarceration: Sentences differ depending on the conviction. A Class 2 felony (such as trafficking in identifying information) carries a prison sentence ranging from three to 35 years
  • Probation: Probation can last up to seven years for a Class 2 felony or up to five years for a Class 3 felony. If you are on probation, you must pay all fines, restitution and comply with probation conditions such as reporting to your probation officer.

For minors, using someone else’s ID is a class one misdemeanor and is punishable with a $2500 fine and up to six months in jail, which aims  to aid Arizona identity theft prevention. You can also lose your license or ID card for up to six months according to state law.

The REAL ID Act

In August, the federal government granted the state of Arizona extra time to develop a driver’s license that complies with new federal security rules mandated by the REAL ID Act. Implemented in 2005, the Act was coordinated to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, with the intention of inhibiting terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

Finally, the most recent development for Arizona identity theft prevention will be starting in 2016. Non-compliant driver’s licenses or IDs that do not meet the national standards for driver’s licenses passed by Congress in 2005 will no longer be accepted at airports for domestic flights. Fliers will have to use alternate government-issued forms of ID, such as a passport of Permanent Residency Card. The REAL ID Act requires drivers to update the photo on their license every eight years and also requires states to get certain documentation and take extra precautions to verify the license holder is in the country legally.

The MVD plans to have REAL ID licenses and identification cards available to the public by April of 2016.