Stolen CDL number puts driver in the hot seat

By Terry Scruton
Senior Writer

Mike Yeaman got a moving violation ticket last December in California. So what? Happens all the time, right?

Except for one thing: Yeaman wasn’t in California in December.

But someone else was. And that someone was using Yeaman’s CDL number.

WHAT to do if you Are a victim of identity theft

If you think someone is using your ID, here are some steps to take:

  • Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed in your credit file. This will alert creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts in your name. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888- 397-3742; and Transunion, 1-800- 680-7289;
  • Close any accounts that you know have been tampered with or opened fraudulently
  • File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to creditors and others that may require proof;
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling toll- free to 1-877-382-4357;
  • If your driver’s license has been stolen, contact the agency or agencies that issued the license (the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area) and follow their procedures to cancel the license and get a new one. Also, ask them to flag your file to keep anyone else from getting a license or another identification document in your name.

More information is available on the FTC’s Identity Theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/index.html.
Source: The Federal Trade Commission

Yeaman, an OOIDA member from Burley, ID, left his job with a trucking company in Blackfoot, ID, in December 2004 to drive for himself. Since then, a number of tickets from various states have appeared in his mailbox – and on his driving record.

Tina Yeaman, Mike’s wife and an OOIDA member herself, said the most recent case was in May and involved four citations in Florida. Mike was in Denver, CO, at the time.

While it may sound like a simple case of a stolen license, what makes it all the more unusual is that Mike had his CDL on him the whole time. In fact, Mike changed his CDL number in March, but someone was still using the old number as recently as May.

It was a ticket in New Mexico – also in December – that gave the Yeamans their first clue as to what was really going on.

“The second one in New Mexico was paid for by his ex-boss,” Tina said. “So we know he’s involved in it.”

In fact, Tina said the last tickets were issued to the same truck that Mike had been driving at the trucking company. In all, there have been three different trucks involved, with a different driver each time. In one case, the driver was described in the police report as Asian; in another, he was white.

Fighting the system
The Yeamans have copies of checks signed by Mike’s former boss showing that he paid off the tickets. They also have court documents to back those up.

Tina has called the FBI, the local police, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Federal Trade Commission and just about anyone else who’ll listen. So why isn’t Mike’s former boss behind bars?

Jay Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, who has been helping the Yeamans with their case, answers that question with another query.

“Is it against the law for me to pay somebody else’s traffic ticket?” he asked rhetorically.

Foley said the trouble is that all the former boss has done is pay for the tickets. Authorities have no proof that the man is illegally using Mike Yeaman’s CDL number. And even if they did link it to Mike’s former boss, he could easily maintain that he had no knowledge that these drivers were using the number.

Foley said there is also no way of knowing just how many different drivers have been using Yeaman’s number.

“You could be talking as many as five different drivers,” he said. “All we know for a fact is it’s the same guy that pays the bills. And if I were the (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), I’d have my inspectors going through this guy’s business from top to bottom. This guy is jeopardizing every individual on the highway.”

Tina Yeaman said the FMCSA has been contacted regarding the case. She sent them all of the documentation she has, but no action had been taken as of press time.

In addition, Idaho’s Department of Transportation has investigated the case and has red flagged Mike’s CDL number in Idaho, so it’s no longer legally in use there.

But the trouble is there isn’t a lot of communication between DOTs in different states, so other drivers could still use Mike’s number out of state and Idaho authorities wouldn’t know anything about it.

“I’ve gone to the end of the rope and I don’t know what else to do,” Tina said.

Strange but true
While the Yeamans’ case is certainly unusual, Foley said it is not the strangest case of stolen identity involving a driver’s license he’s ever heard of. There was a case a while back, he said, where a woman received a phone call from a lawyer asking if her husband needed legal representation.

Her husband, the lawyer said, was involved in a traffic accident while driving a shuttle van up and down the East Coast.

The problem? The woman hadn’t seen her husband in quite some time. Not since Sept. 11, 2001, to be exact. On that day, he was on the 87th floor of one of the World Trade Center’s towers.

In her desperate search for her husband after the attacks, the woman had posted so much information on the Internet that an illegal alien had taken the information and used it to get a driver’s license.

Foley said that a case like the Yeamans’ is difficult to prevent, but drivers should be careful when sharing their CDL information – or any personal information, for that matter – with a carrier, broker or shipper. It doesn’t hurt to make sure you really know whom you are doing business with.

On the record
Tina Yeaman said the best advice she had for truckers is to keep careful records of everything they do related to their business. Mike’s record was cleared in California and New Mexico because the Yeamans kept detailed logbooks and had proof of where he was when those tickets were issued.

“Keeping good records is important,” she said. “The logbooks and receipts really help you. They show where you’ve been.”

Gary Green, OOIDA’s special projects director, said there is little that can be done to prevent this kind of ID theft, but, he added, this particular type of theft is rare because it is very difficult to pull off.

“It would be difficult to do,” he said. “They would have to make a license good enough to get past a cop.”

However, in more than one case, Tina said the truckers simply gave officers Mike’s CDL number – they didn’t actually show the officers a license. The drivers were given citations for not having their CDLs on them, and were turned loose again on the road.

Foley said the only hope is to change the laws to get companies to beef up their security, especially when it comes to sensitive information.

“Companies need to have more secure facilities for storing that information,” he said.

“Independents need more security on their side. (The Yeamans) don’t deserve to be catching this kind of grief.”