NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fake Drivers

September 11, 2003

The nation's system for issuing driver's licenses remains vulnerable to fraud despite millions of dollars states have spent to tighten procedures, according to a report by the General Accounting Office. The report comes almost two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks spotlighted wide gaps in the methods states use to verify the identity of applicants for driver's licenses.

  • Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers legally obtained Florida licenses, which they used to board the jets that they commandeered and flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
  • Others paid people in Virginia to swear that they had permanent addresses in that state.
  • Using phony birth certificates, utility bills, baptismal certificates and fake IDs from other states, undercover agents obtained driver's licenses in all seven states they visited from July 2002 to May 2003.

Changes in the last two years have made fraud more difficult, but gaps remain, say officials. "If the GAO can do this, then terrorists can do it," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The states where agents got driver's licenses with phony documents were Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Arizona, California, Michigan and New York, plus the District of Columbia. Agents obtained a license every time they tried but sometimes had to adjust their methods after being rebuffed initially by clerks.

Source: Patrick McMahon, "Driver license fraud report: Still too easy," USA Today, September 10, 2003; see also Robert J. Cramer, managing director, Office of Special Investigations, General Accounting Office, "Counterfeit Identification and Identification Fraud Raise Security Concerns," testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance. GAO-03-1147T, September 9, 2003.

For text

For GAO report


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