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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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How safe is your identity? (Part 1)

Photo source: Wikipedia (The Spokesman-Review)
Photo source: Wikipedia (The Spokesman-Review)

Good morning, Netizens...

I cannot say I wasn't warned, because an engineer I know in Seattle swore he was able to wirelessly steal the identities of people in Pike Street last week using the same technology as described in a YouTube posting . RFID or Radio Frequency Identification tags, better known in Washington State as “enhanced driver's licenses” were introduced as a means for citizens to quickly and easily cross the border into Canada and Mexico using driver's licenses equipped with a special RFID chip without using a passport.

These federally approved licenses will contain "at the minimum, the issue date, the citizens' date of birth, gender, address, signature, Washington State driver's license number and a full color facial photograph" and "citizenship status. According to the AP article, these licenses can be scanned by an appropriate reader from a distance of 30 feet or less.

After reading about it online, my friend equipped his car with a Matrix antenna and a Motorola reader he purchased on EBAY for under $200 similar to that described by Chris Paget in the YouTube video and began driving around Pike Street scanning for the unique serial numbers of innocent pedestrians carrying enhanced driver's licenses equipped with RFID chips. He was immediately able to obtain half a dozen tags, all without the knowledge and/or consent of the persons carrying these licenses.

Upon further discussion with various people, I also discovered that the new-and-improved US Passports also are equipped with these RFID chips, which is further verified by

I have been alarmed about the deployment and use of Social Security numbers on Washington State Driver's Licenses for several years, if not the ease with which savvy citizens can obtain information from current driver's licenses with a minimum of trouble.

Unfortunately, technically-oriented people today no longer need to go through austere legal channels to obtain information from your driver's license. All they have to do is wait for you to walk by their surreptitious radios equipped with RFID scanner and they have all the information they will ever need to clone your identity.

Do you feel alarmed? Perhaps you don't have an enhanced driver's license yet. Perhaps in a period of time our Washington State Driver's licenses will be chipped, as well.

I don't like it. There are altogether too many ways to beat this system, to gain access to my information. If a 24 year-old self-styled hacker in Seattle and another in San Francisco both state they have readers that work, a professional engineer must find this child's play.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.