Despite progress by the 50 states in preventing other types of identity fraud, criminals -- or terrorists -- are still able to obtain fake drivers licenses or official IDs under multiple names in multiple states, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In its report to Congress, the GAO describes how its investigators were able to obtain five drivers licenses under different identities in three different states using counterfeit documents including birth certificates and Social Security cards.
"In each state, investigative staff obtained genuine licenses under fictitious identities -- combinations of name, date of birth, and SSN that do not correspond to any real individuals," states the report.
In two states, GAO investigators succeeded in getting multiple licenses under false identities including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, none of which corresponded to actual people.
"In most of these five attempts across the three states, we were issued permanent or temporary licenses in about 1 hour or less," reported the GAO. "In only one case did a front-counter clerk appear to question the validity of one of the counterfeit documents, but this clerk did not stop the issuance process."
Long recognized as a problem, people crossing state lines to obtain fraudulent license and IDs remains a "challenge" for the states, according to the GAO.
"Officials in all the states we interviewed acknowledged they lack the ability to consistently determine if the identity presented by a license applicant is already associated with a license-holder in another state," stated the GAO.
Quick to respond to the GAO's report was Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, who noted in a press release that GAO investigators used "the same techniques used by the 9/11 terrorists" to obtain fictitious licenses.
"Terrorists planning future attacks on Americans will be delighted by GAO's findings, but Congress should be very concerned," said Zimmerman.
The GAO generally agreed, recommending that Congress enact legislation enhancing state driver licensing agencies' ability under the REAL ID Act to combat license fraud. In addition, the GAO recommended that while national systems to detect cross-state and birth certificate fraud are being developed, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with state agencies to develop and implement an interim strategy for addressing cross-state driver license fraud.