Karen Lothamer is one of the nearly 2.4 million Hoosiers whose drivers license will expire this year, and shes one of the people who got a postcard from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles urging her to renew her license early.
The BMV has made it pretty easy to renew your license. You dont have to spend an hour at a license branch anymore. Just go to the BMV site, fill out a form and provide a credit card number. The BMV will mail you a new license, complete with the same ugly picture they took of you six years ago.
To make it easy to find the site, the BMV mailed people a car instructing them to go to myBMV.com.
If you do any type of Internet search for myBMV.com, though, you might get confused. Lothamer did. Several sites bill themselves as places to renew your license, but only one bills itself as myBMV.com.
Thats the one Lothamer clicked on.
The page looked official enough, complete with start now boxes. So Lothamer filled out the form, giving her name, address, birth date and a credit card number, then clicked on continue. On that page she was asked to provide her Social Security number and was notified that she could be charged about $35 for her license, not the $21 the state says it charges.
Within less than a minute Lothamers phone rang. It was Three Rivers Federal Credit Union, where she banks, wanting to know whether she really wanted to give her credit card number to that website.
Call it Lothamers lucky day. The credit union uses something called Falcon, which manages to immediately detect when a customers credit card is used in a questionable location or on a questionable website. Notified that she had entered potentially dangerous territory, Lothamer had the credit union immediately cancel her credit card and issue her a new one.
The Falcon system is definitely impressive, but thats not really what this tale is about.
Its that people seeking to renew their license online can accidentally stumble upon bogus websites. They look official, but if you use one, you may well end up losing money and never get your license renewed, because a third party cant renew your license for you.
What is particularly scary is that people who use these sites will give a third party lots of valuable information – name, address, phone number, birth date, Social Security number, credit card numbers, etc. Thats everything someone needs to apply for credit cards in your name.
In Lothamers case, she has a new credit card now, but she still hasnt renewed her drivers license. Shes decided not to do it online.
I advised her that if she goes to the real BMVs website there would be nothing to worry about. But no, Lothamer has decided to head to a license branch and get her new license the old-fashioned way.