A campground recently made a copy of my Driver’s License for their records. It’s the first time I’ve had that happen, is it common? Is it legal? 

-Jeff S., Florida

It is very common for campgrounds and hotels to want to see a driver’s license on check-in. They need to verify your name matches your credit card or check, and they want to know that the people on their property are who they say they are. Records are useful for law enforcement and in case of an emergency. Think of it like keeping a manifest of passengers on a ship.

Copying your ID is another matter. It is legal for a campground to make a copy of your license in most states if they have your permission. Missouri and New Jersey are two exceptions I’m aware of. Of course, if you decline, they aren’t required to let you stay there. Campgrounds who accept your ID and make a copy without letting you know are opening themselves up to a lawsuit if your identity gets stolen, as are campgrounds who don’t take care of your private info. Once they copy your license, they are responsible for keeping that copy secure.

Your driver’s license contains info that can help an identity thief, but much of what is on your license is readily available on the internet. A copy, especially a good color copy, can be used to make a fake of your license or can be sent in for online loan and bank account applications. What hotels and campgrounds should do is take down your name and address — even your license number if they want  — in their computer, and then checking it against your driver’s license, and hand it back. In reality, some like to take the shortcut. It’s up to you to decide if you’ll let them.