Nevada DMV not among states criticized for security problems

Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles is not among those criticized in a recent General Accounting Office report as vulnerable to terrorists seeking false driver's licenses and other identification.

The report was issued after a yearlong undercover operation in which GAO investigators found nearly half the employees approached in different states relied solely on visual inspection of documents to verify identity before issuing a driver's license, title or registration.

Nevada DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs said Nevada not on that list, and its rules will get even tougher in January.

"Nevada does have some of the most stringent requirements to get a driver's license," he said. "You have to prove you are a legal resident or a citizen to get a license here."

Next year, Jacobs said, a new law takes effect "which no longer requires DMV to take any out-of-state license as gospel."

He said that means an applicant can be required to show a certificate of naturalization, birth certificate, military ID, U.S. passport or other official document to prove they are who they claim to be. He said that will occur especially when an applicant presents a driver's license from a state with looser or less sophisticated rules than Nevada.

In addition, he said the state has a new DMV computer system that can verify Social Security numbers and check out-of-state licenses.

In May 2002, the state converted to a digitized license resembling a credit card.

"The primary reason is it's much more difficult to counterfeit," Jacobs said.

He said most of Nevada's requirements aren't new -- that they were in place even before 9-11.

"It's become a larger issue since 9-11, but it's always been an issue for us," he said.

Jacobs said that's why DMV employees in Nevada receive eight hours of training in how to recognize fraudulent documents and annual refresher courses.

"That was in even before Homeland Security kicked in," he said.

The training deals with spotting phony licenses from other states and with other forged, altered or invalid documents dealing with licenses, registrations and titles.

He said the training is so good DMV has been asked to provide it to law enforcement agencies and businesses, including Sierra Pacific Power Co.

"Frankly, those technicians are, by virtue of experience, fraudulent document experts," he said. "Daily, our DMV technicians deal with this."

Jacobs said they have to be because the "bad guys" are always looking for a hole in the security system, a way around it.

"This week, we got our first phony digitized license," he said.

The GAO report said in too many states, phony documents made with available tools such as copiers, scanners and official-looking stamps and seals were accepted. Often, they then used fraudulently obtained licenses from one state as identification to get a license in another state.

Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, requested the study and report saying he was concerned about the ability of terrorists to get phony IDs in this country.


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