June 7, 2012
The Department of Licensing (DOL) is starting to use a facial recognition matching system as part of our ongoing efforts to prevent individuals from obtaining multiple driver licenses or ID cards or attempting to obtain a license or ID in the name of another Washington resident. DOL is committed to doing everything we can to protect the identities of Washington residents.
DOL has used facial recognition as part of the Enhanced Driver License program since 2008 and in our regular driver license and ID card processes during the pilot program from November 2009 through June 2011.
How does facial recognition system work?
Using your regular driver license or ID card photo, the system uses sophisticated mathematics to create a digital template of facial features that aren’t easy to alter, such as eye sockets, cheekbones and sides of the mouth.
Before a new license is issued, the system compares the template it creates to with all of the templates already in our database to determine if someone is attempting to apply for a license using a name other than their own. When potential conflicts are detected, the system flags them for review by specially trained DOL staff.
DOL’s facial recognition system is designed to be an accurate, non-obtrusive fraud detection tool. When staff investigators confirm an individual may have more than one identity in our system, DOL offers the individual an opportunity to explain. A hearing is offered before any administrative action to suspend or cancel a license or ID card is taken.
Facial recognition templates are not shared
We do not share the use of the system with law enforcement or the other agencies without a court order and do not release facial recognition system results. However, when our efforts find probable fraud or identity theft we inform appropriate partner agencies who can investigate for identity-based crime or entitlement fraud.
July 13, 2011
Screenshot of bogus website
The Department of Licensing warns Washington residents to be vigilant about protecting themselves from potential phishing schemes involving driver licenses, ID cards and instruction permits. Phishing involves tricking individuals, usually using computers, into volunteering personal information about themselves that can be used for fraud like identity theft.
Recently, a letter was sent to an individual in Clark County who applied for an instruction permit. It said he had been selected for additional verification and that in order to receive his permit he needed to go to a website and answer some security questions.
The website was similar in appearance to DOL’s website, but is not associated with the department. He was asked to enter a verification code provided in the letter, and a counterfeit page asked for personal information like Social Security numbers and driver license numbers of his parents. The letter also directed customers to contact customer service representatives at an email not associated with the department.
DOL is currently investigating this reported fraud and is taking steps to have the fraudulent website shut down.
At this point, an analysis of the fraudulent website appears to indicate this is an isolated incident limited to one victim. However, we urge customers to contact us right away if they received a letter that directed them to a website to verify personal information. You can email the department at email@example.com or call us at 360-902-3915.
Bogus letter sent to Clark County phishing scheme victim
April 27, 2010
By Tony Sermonti
A new look to driver licenses and facial recognition software will make it harder for identity thieves to do business in Washington.
The new driver license look.
DOL is expanding the use of facial recognition technology, a security measure already used in the Enhanced Driver License program, to safeguard regular driver licenses and ID cards. Changes to the driver license are coming as well — by shifting the picture to the left side and adding an identical but smaller, shaded photo on the right, the licenses will be harder to fake. The new design will be phased in as people renew or replace, starting in June.
Essentially a math-based facial mapping system, the software creates unique facial “templates” based on each driver license or ID card photo to identify potential matches of the same face associated with different names. From there, Department of Licensing investigators take over the case, examining actual photographs and other information to determine if criminal activity, including identity theft, is occurring.
Investigators say most matches will be easily resolved; the results of marriages or legal name changes, while some will be clear cases of criminal activity. They’ve already linked one individual by photograph to 36 different identities.
The system can only be accessed by investigators with the Department of Licensing who have gone through extensive background checks.