As the omicron variant fueled a surge of COVID-19 cases in January, a registered nurse in Illinois experienced a new stress that could have prevented her from getting to work to treat patients.
Maria Vargas remembers opening a letter from the Illinois Secretary of State and learning her driver's license was about to be suspended because of an outstanding violation in Massachusetts.
"I was like, 'That's not possible,' because I've never been to Massachusetts in my life," Vargas said.
Vargas was flagged in the National Driver Register, a system designed to prevent unsafe drivers in one state from shopping for licenses in other states.
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In Vargas' case, someone with the exact same name and birthday in Massachusetts was responsible for the violation.
But fixing that problem was much easier said than done, as Vargas would soon learn.
"It was a never-ending cycle," Vargas recalled. "It was a nightmare. I didn't know what to do."
Vargas said the constant stress caused her to get sick and miss work. That's when she searched online and found a series of stories from the NBC10 Boston Investigators. Vargas watched how we helped other drivers dealing with license suspension nightmares for old out-of-state speeding tickets or minor fender-bender accidents.
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Vargas decided to send us an email to describe her situation and ask for assistance cutting through the bureaucratic red tape.
"All of a sudden, after I reached out to you, I received a call from a representative of the Massachusetts RMV," Vargas said.
Before long, Vargas received a letter from the RMV, clearing her record and putting the stressful situation in the rearview mirror.
The federal government has made recent improvements to the National Driver Register to avoid cases of mistaken identity. But as Vargas experienced, it is not foolproof.
More on the Massachusetts RMV
In her case, the RMV eventually ruled her out because of a different height and eye color from the Maria Vargas who committed the driving violation in Massachusetts.
"I'm grateful to you and your investigative team," Vargas said. "If it wasn't for reporters like you and your team, I honestly don't know what I would be doing right now."
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.