N.H. driver’s licenses now have random numbers to make ID theft tougher

  • This sample shows the new type of driver’s license number, consisting of NHL for an operator’s license followed by eight random digits. Courtesy / NH DMV

Monitor staff
Published: 12/5/2017 1:13:44 PM

New Hampshire is now randomizing driver’s license numbers to help protect privacy online, but there’s no need to replace an existing license that carries an old number based on your name and birth date.

The change, which went into effect in October, was made possible by a software upgrade this year to accommodate the federal program known as Real ID.

Up until Oct. 11, all New Hampshire driver’s license numbers were based on the driver’s name and birth date, meaning that somebody else could fairly easily guess the number even without seeing the license.

Since then, license numbers start with a three-letter code – NHL for an operator license, NHN for a non-driver ID and NHV for a voter ID – followed by eight random numbers.

“This is considered more secure and protects driver privacy better,” said Larry Crowe, spokesman for the Division of Motor Vehicles.

While a driver’s license number is not used to identify people as often as is a Social Security number, it can be an identifier.

“There are several industries that do use driver license number, such as insurance ... and anytime somebody gets carded for a liquor purchase, some places actually capture that number,” Crowe said.

Massachusetts also uses a random, eight-digit number to identify driver’s licenses.

New Hampshire driver’s licenses given out before Oct. 11, which have numbers in the old format, will continue to be legal until their scheduled expiration date and don’t need to be replaced, Crowe said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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