DMV crackdown on online licensing fraud



ALBANY – State Department of Motor Vehicles workers say the agency has stepped up its enforcement of widespread cheating in an online driver’s license program that was implemented a year ago to allow individuals to take the tests online during the pandemic.

Security improvements have included blocking people outside New York from taking the tests online.

The Times Union reported two weeks ago that the state inspector general’s office investigated widespread fraud in New York’s driver’s license program, much of it apparently fueled by a scheme to obtain unlawfully driving permits for undocumented migrants, who may have used the permits to establish residence and receive unemployment benefits under the state’s new Excluded Workers Fund.

Many people suspected of exploiting the program to obtain state unemployment benefits related to the pandemic may be residing in other states or outside the country, according to a person briefed on the matter. This person said that since The Times Union reported the cheating earlier this month, the number of online permits at the Albany state-run motor vehicle office has dropped sharply and most tests online were visited by 16 and 17 year olds, rather than adults. other states.

Agency spokespersons, citing security concerns, declined to detail how their agency prevents individuals from taking tests online from outside New York City, including in other countries.

“The DMV requires that a person be in New York State to take the online license test,” said Darren Boysen, spokesperson for the agency. “To ensure the continued security and integrity of the system, and to help prevent future fraudulent activity, we cannot provide these details of security measures. However, DMV remains committed to constantly improving all of our security features throughout. by providing practical, modern and efficient features. services for our customers. “

Boysen said motor vehicle investigators had arrested 52 people in the past three months for “altered, stolen or fraudulent documents.”

Investigators from the Inspector General’s office last month told autoworkers in Albany they suspected undocumented immigrants paying $ 3,000 or more to have someone pass the blood tests. driver’s license online for them, and also used fraudulent residence documents and fake mailing addresses.

The law creating the Excluded Workers Fund was passed by the state legislature in April, the result of a nearly one-year effort to provide unemployment benefits to undocumented workers and others who do not. were not previously entitled to state or federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

After the program launched on August 1 – with applications in 13 different languages ​​- Governor Kathy Hochul said the state’s Department of Labor received more than 90,000 applications in the first month and approved more than the half of them on September 3. 100,000 claimants were to receive payments of $ 15,600, while about 200,000 others were to receive payments of $ 3,200.

In early September, Hochul announced that the State Department of Labor had approved the distribution of more than $ 850 million from the $ 2.1 billion fund. By that time, $ 250 million had been released and an additional $ 600 million was to be distributed pending verification of those claims, the governor said.

In early October, defenders complained that too many New Yorkers were being excluded from the program and called for its extension. That same month, the Department of Labor published a notice on its website stating that the fund that had benefited “thousands of New Yorkers statewide” was “nearly depleted” and that no applications would be accepted. after October 8.

It is not known when the alleged fraud was detected or if the Ministry of Labor is involved in the Inspector General’s investigation. The Ministry of Labor did not respond to questions on this matter.

Some DMV employees argue that the alleged fraud was exacerbated by the state’s green light law, which went into effect in December 2019 and allowed thousands of undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, something that more than a dozen other states allow as well.

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had said the green light law’s main intention was to improve public safety by ensuring that undocumented motorists are legally allowed to drive.

“From the state’s point of view, I want to make sure that the people who drive on our roads pass a driving test. It’s a public safety issue,” he said in an interview in February. 2020.

But the Times Union reported on Monday that many online tests were completed in just minutes, often with near-perfect scores, by people investigators suspected of apparently cheating or asking others to take the tests. tests for them.

In an effort to stem cheating, DMV added a security feature to the tests in late October that required the person taking the online test to be photographed four times during the exam. This allowed DMV employees to compare the images of the person taking the test online to the person standing in front of them.

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