Another DMV glitch-California : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

DMV Glitch Causes Thousands of License Renewals to Be Rejected If you've experienced unexpected trouble in renewing your California drivers license, you may be the victim of a glitch at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The problems stem from a new anti-fraud policy that was implemented last October. According to D.M.V. officials, drivers are failing identity checks when the agency cross-checks Social Security information with renewal applications. In most cases, problems arise because the motorist's name does not appear exactly as it's listed in Social Security records. The cross-checks are part of a new plan to stop identity thieves and other criminals from getting fraudulent licenses.

So far, the problem has caused more than 500,000 California license renewal applications to be rejected The D.M.V. says it is issuing temporary licenses until an applicant's identification is verified.

Story updated April 19, 2001 - 4:42 pm

-- Martin Thompson (, April 19, 2001


Posted at 10:33 p.m. PDT Friday, June 22, 2001

Glitch in DMV crackdown leaves some drivers unable to renew licenses BY GARY RICHARDS

Mercury News

A Department of Motor Vehicles crackdown on identity theft has left thousands of California motorists unable to renew their licenses because the name on the card doesn't precisely match the one attached to their Social Security number.

The mess has drivers like Bill Sampson disgusted -- and dialing the DMV at the rate of 1,000 a day.

The 58-year-old civil engineer from Santa Clara has had only one moving violation in the last 13 years. His insurance is paid up. And he certainly has tried to renew his license, which expired in April, applying well in advance and following up with countless calls to the DMV.

But for nearly two months, Sampson has been driving around Silicon Valley with an expired license.

The DMV says that more than half a million people -- 11 percent of all applicants -- may have been caught in the paperwork snafu since the cross checking to combat fraud began in October.

The DMV won't say how many fake licenses are issued, but an investigation by the Orange County Register found that nearly 100,000 bogus licenses get issued a year in California. Some use a fake ID because they can't afford auto insurance; others want a new identity and sometimes use the license to steal money.

The state shows no signs of backing off, saying the crackdown is effective at weeding out people trying to get a fake license. This is the first time the DMV has made license renewal contingent on matching the name on the license to the Social Security card.

``Fraud is a real problem and this is just something we have to do,'' said DMV spokesman Steve Haskins.

But the crackdown has caught Sampson and others in a bureaucratic nightmare.

When his mother took him to get a Social Security card at age 12, he was called Bill Sampson, ``so that was how I filled out my application.''

When he turned 17 and went to get his first driver's license, it was a big day and he opted for his more impressive-sounding birth name of William H. Sampson. ``For approximately 40 years, the DMV accepted me as William H. Sampson,'' he said. ``Until now.''

When the rejection letter came back from the DMV, he was told to go to the Department of Social Security and get the names matched. He did. Seven weeks later, still no new license.

``I'm exasperated and very upset with the DMV,'' Sampson said. ``I'm an honest clean driver and I hate to be driving around with this license that's not worth anything anymore. I haven't been stopped in years, but I can't go any place to write a check. If I bring out my license, it's expired. Think of the problems that might raise.''

When Elizabeth Weise of San Francisco was a toddler, her mother applied for her Social Security card and used the first name of Beth.

But the daughter is now 39 and has gone by Elizabeth for nearly her entire life and has never had any problems getting a state license. Until this spring. A week before she was to give birth to her first child, her license expired after the DMV rejected her renewal because of the different first names.

``My God,'' Weise said she thought. ``If I have to drive myself to the hospital, I don't want to be putzing around and get pulled over by the cops. Not without a license.''

A clerk with Social Security told her that ``we understand that Beth and Elizabeth are the same person and it doesn't bother us, but the DMV won't let it by any more.''

Several phone calls, with several long waits later, she was thoroughly baffled. One DMV agent told her to come in and get matters straightened out. Another said she needed to go to Social Security. A third said she should mail off a letter to Sacramento. All this while dealing with a newborn child.

She finally decided to get a temporary license until the DMV delivers the real paperwork.

``It's fine with DMV wanting names to match,'' Weise said. ``I understand that. But it's frustrating that DMV did such a poor job telling what I needed to do to fix the problem.''

Angelica Delgado agrees. The aide to Assemblyman Manny Diaz, D-San Jose, said her office has received numerous complaints. ``We think the DMV should do a little outreach, like explaining this in a letter.''

If you hyphenate your name, as many people do when they get married, expect a DMV rejection.

The DMV says this problem may be with us for awhile, but should eventually blow over as people renew their licenses and get names matched with the names on their Social Security cards.

``Sometime in the next few years when you go to renew your license, you're probably going to have to have your Social Security number verified as well,'' Haskins said. ``That's just part of the deal. But once you've done that, you should be OK'' in future years.

Many drivers unable to renew their license worry about being stopped by police. What would an officer do if someone like Sampson told his DMV story as he pulled out an expired license?

``Personally, if they mentioned the DMV I would believe them,'' said Gary Hagen, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. ``It sounds like a DMV faux pax.''

Only if someone's license had been expired for more than six months would Hagen get extra suspicious. Otherwise he says a motorist would likely be issued a fix-it ticket, requiring a driver to pay a small fee to prove they really are licensed.

If you have traded correspondence with the DMV, carry it with you, Hagen said. ``That would be a big help.''

The DMV advises checking with Social Security and having them verify the name you listed on your application.

That's what Weise did. Only when she went to Social Security to change records, she was asked to provide a form of identification.

What did they require?

A California driver's license.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 23, 2001.

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