It's a big problem for law enforcement during routine traffic stops: drivers giving out information that's not their own. The most common example of this kind of identity fraud is when drivers are pulled over and claim they don't have their licenses on them. But instead of getting themselves in trouble, they give out someone else's information. The name a person gives out is typically someone they know very well. N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. J.O. Holmes said, "Usually a close relative because they have to be convincing, they have to know a lot of information, be able to answer a lot of questions and generally it's a close family member that has access to that information." And it happens more often than you may think. Brunswick County Sheriff Ron Hewett said, "This does happen quite frequently and it really is quite a tragedy because people end up at the courthouse charged with a crime they never committed." And more than law enforcement may know about. Sgt. Holmes said, "It's a hard thing to determine how often it happens because sometimes we may find out about it a long time down the road and sometimes we may not find out about it at all." Often the victim doesn't find out until they get a ticket in the mail -- or worse. Sgt. Holmes said, "They could be arrested and taken to jail for driving with their drivers license revoked for a minor traffic violation they never knew about." Getting the violation off their record isn't easy. Sheriff Hewett said, "Many times it does take a courtroom appearance where the officer takes a look at the person and says, that is not the individual I wrote the ticket to." Sgt. Holmes said, "It puts the officers, it puts the court systems and it puts everybody in a difficult position. Ultimately the people who suffer the most are the people who had their identity used." Stopping this type of crime from happening may be years away. Technology is in the works that would allow troopers to pull up a driver's license picture simply by typing a name into a computer database. It's just a matter of getting the money to pay for the equipment. Sgt. Holmes said, "That would solve a lot of problems if someone tells me who they are I could enter their information into the computer and it pulls up their picture. And then I could tell if I am speaking to that person or not." Until that technology becomes available officers have to do it the old fashioned way. They take good notes and hope the person they pull over is who they say they are. It is against the law to drive without your license and you can be arrested if caught driving without it.
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