Thieves have targeted Department of Motor Vehicles across the nation for years stealing the equipment to make driver's licenses. That's what happened in North Las Vegas recently, but it wasn't until last week that officials realized the thieves not only wanted to make Ids but that they made off with the means to steal identities as well. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
SOUND: Inside DMV
DMV EMPLOYEE: What's your address mam?
PLASKON: This customer is having her picture taken for a drivers license.
DMV EMPLOYEE: I'm sorry, I can't let you record her address.
PLASKON: Apparently this is the type of information thieves were after this month. They crashed a car through the back door of a North Las Vegas DMV and snatched driver's license making equipment. Jinny Lewis Nevada DMV Director said these computers contained 8-thousand 900 social security numbers, addresses and birthdays.
LEWIS: The state is extremely sorry that this happened.
PLASKON: She says they'll send out new driver's license numbers to those who were affected. Joseph Grindley, Information Technology Specialist for the DMV explains how the thieves can get the password protected information.
GRINDLEY: There are certain hacking programs that they can use to hack into windows. This kind of stuff exists on line.
PLASKON: The same records system as Nevada's is in place in 32 states, but because of this incident the Nevada DMV is storing data at a central location and erasing its computers nightly at field offices. It's also looking into installing video cameras. The Secret Service's South West Identity Theft Task Force is the federal agency that investigates cases like this. This incident as well others at DMVs in California and Idaho may prompt the Secret Service to recommend preventative measures across the nation says the Secret Services' Paul Masto. Identity thieves aren't just targeting DMVs, but doctors offices and even auto repair shops.
MASTO: It used to be that they were breaking in and stealing the drugs in the doctors offices, now they go right by the drug counter now, they go right for the hard drive of the girl who is sending out the bills for the doctor's office.
PLASKON: According to the Federal Trade Commission the total loss to businesses because of identity theft was 50 billion dollars in 2003. It takes 60 hours for an individual to clean their name after a thief has assumed their name and it costs more than 1 thousand dollars according to the FTC. The same report says that in 2003 more than 27 million Americans were victims of identity theft.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR