CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None - North Carolina's Department of Motor Vehicles uses a facial recognition program to prevent fraud and to protect people's identities. But one Charlotte woman says the program backfired on her and that she's now wrongly being accused of fraud.
"It's very frustrating," said Delon Wingate, clutching a letter sent to her last week by the DMV. "I am completely outraged."
After getting the letter, Wingate met with inspectors at the DMV on North Tryon Street. There, she was shown three photos that were red-flagged by the DMV's facial recognition program.
"They showed me three pictures. Two of them were me from past licenses and the third one," Wingate said, "I don't know who that is."
The DMV said all three photos are of Wingate and that the earliest one was found on a license issued under another name and a different date of birth. The DMV said it happened in 1998 and is accusing Wingate of fraudulently trying to get a license under another name.
"My hair was different, my face shape and everything was completely different," said Wingate. And, she added, in 1998 "I lived in Michigan. I was a 10th grader, 16 years old. I had never stepped foot in North Carolina until 2005."
Still, the DMV insists Wingate is the person pictured on the 1998 license. A representative said that the DMV might have even considered filing charges against Wingate, had the statute of limitations not run out.
The DMV has ordered Wingate to reapply for a new license, redo her driving test and pay $50 for a new license.
"I don't care if the cost was five cents. I'm not paying when I didn't do anything wrong," Wingate said.
However, she said she would be hiring an attorney to fight the charges and to demonstrate flaws in North Carolina's facial recognition program.
DMV officials said that an average of 150 to 200 photos are red-flagged daily. The large majority are quickly eliminated as potential fraud cases, but there have been 60,000 fraud investigations since 1996.
Of those cases, about 3,100 people have been cleared of fraud based on findings of examiner errors.
"That shows it's very ineffective," said Wingate. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. It's very, very scary."
The DMV contacted Wingate Thursday and said her license would be reinstated.