If you know someone who’s been a victim of identity theft or have heard many scam stories, you might feel the need to protect yourself. We’re sure you don’t want to be the next victim.
While you may not have even a close encounter with scammers and hackers, you’d want to be proactive in keeping your information safe. And that’s great!
If you own a vehicle, you might be concerned about your license plate number.
You think people can look up plate numbers at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but you may not know how much information one can get about you with just the plate number.
We wanted to understand that too. So, we looked into official government sources and laws covering plate numbers. Aside from that, we checked security sources and reputable online publications to gather insights and tips.
So stick with us until the end, and you’ll discover the one thing you should worry about your plate number. You can avoid unconsciously breaking the law because you’re unsure if you must keep your plate numbers covered.
What can other people do with your license plate number?
Since your license plate is always shown to the public, you might be worried that someone can use it for identity theft.
Identity theft is on the rise. Roughly every 10 seconds someone’s identity is stolen to commit fraud, crimes or worse. This can cause difficulties with everything from banking, credit cards, insurance, loans and more, and you might not know about it until it’s too late.
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Fortunately, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) prevents disclosing of personal information from a motor vehicle record. But what’s included in “personal information”?
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Name and address
- Driver Identification Number
- Phone number
- Medical and disability information
So if you’re wondering, “Can you trace a car owner from a number plate?” If you’re unauthorized, the answer is no because the law prohibits it.
Also, a civilian can’t run your license plate, and any website claiming to do it is a scam. Only police officers and certain DMV officials can find information from your license plate number.
The DPPA disallows any officer, employee, or contractor of the DMV to knowingly provide your information to anyone. The law even imposes a fine of $5,000 per day on violators.
The most that DMV can give to people are:
- Maintenance history
- Repossession history
- Driving violations
- Accident history
- Mileage and natural damage
- Fuel economy
Also, before someone can get the said details, the DMV will request documents from that person and demand an explanation of where the information will be used. This process helps prevent fraudsters from committing identity theft.
But what happens if someone reports your license plate?
It depends on further evidence from the person who filed a report against you. If the individual provides witnesses or additional videos and pictures, the authorities will contact you to investigate the matter.
However, they will not act on unsubstantiated claims if the person just contacted the police to report your license plate. These officials also know that fraudsters can use someone else’s plate number for malicious purposes.
It’s also possible for someone to steal your license plate, which is the one thing you should worry about. They can put the stolen plate on their car or copy your license plate number to create a fake plate that they can use in crimes, including traffic violations.
Fortunately, police officers can track your vehicle’s records and help drop any charge against you.
In 2017, TMJ4 News reported that a citizen from Milwaukee got a ticket for running a red light in New York City. However, the woman insisted that she was in Wisconsin that day.
After looking up her registration information, the authorities discovered that the vehicle involved was not her car. The police uncovered that someone had copied the victim’s plate number, so they canceled her ticket.
Police officers can access your vehicle’s records, so it’s difficult for others to implicate you just because they have your license plate number.
Should you hide your license plate number?
When you post a photo on the internet, it’s always available for anyone to see. That’s why people cover their license plates in pictures.
It can help prevent fraudsters and criminals from copying your plate number, as what happened to the victim mentioned above. Blurring your license plate on photos can also conceal them from prying eyes who have malicious plans.
Although it’s tempting to hide your license plate for privacy reasons, doing so can make you liable under the law. When you’re using your car, and you’re on the road, it’s illegal to tamper, remove, cover, or alter your plate number, even if you’re the owner.
It’s part of state policy to protect the public from crimes, including road accidents. If police officers can’t clearly see drivers’ plate numbers, it will be difficult for them to apprehend offenders.
So it’s not necessary to obstruct your license plate. We recommend displaying it properly to avoid sanctions.
Again, other people can’t use it alone to commit identity theft because it doesn’t disclose essential information, such as Social Security Number, Driver’s Identification Number, and home address.
Unfortunately, there are many other ways thieves can steal your personal information and commit crimes. And keeping up with the latest data breaches, cyber-attacks, scams and more is a full-time job!
It’s a good thing you can rely on services like Aura to help proactively protect your data as well as resolve identity theft & financial fraud issues if they arise. Aura provides:
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What are the authorized reasons for accessing license plate records?
The law permits certain instances when authorities can access your license plate records and disclose personal information. Some of these are:
- When the owner consented to the release of details
- To provide notice for towed or impounded vehicles
- For use by courts or law enforcement agencies
- For verification of personal information
- For use in statistical reports and research activities
- For private toll transportation facilities
Since DPPA sometimes allows access to license plate records, you might ask, “Why do you need to find details about a license plate?”
- You can discover the repossession and maintenance history of the car you bought.
- It also uncovers the driving violations committed by past owners and your vehicle’s accident history.
- Victims can look it up when criminals use vehicles during criminal acts. This way, police officers can investigate further.
If you don’t have a valid and legal reason to look up somebody else’s license plate, you can’t do it.
Wrapping up: Can someone use your license plate number for identity theft?
It’s nearly impossible for fraudsters to use your license plate to commit identity theft. The law prohibits and fines the disclosure of records related to it.
If scammers want to access your plate number records, the DMV will request an explanation and documents on why they need to access private information.
Besides, they can only get the car’s history and not your SSN, name, address, phone number, and other sensitive data.