In 2013, there were nearly 700,000 car thefts in the United States, but a lot more goes missing than just a vehicle in those cases. Besides the typical losses suffered from items that happened to be in the car, such as a purse or briefcase, laptop computer, smartphone or tablet, or any other number of expensive items, sometimes it’s the driver’s identity that gets carted away too.
Those physical items can easily lead thieves to more of your information than you wanted to share. The best course of action to protect against identity theft is to always safeguard all of your personal property with password protections so that items like your laptop—the one you use to log in and manage your online bill paying, for example—or your cell phone that is connected to your email and social media don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Almost all states require you to carry proof of insurance and your vehicle’s registration. Since the car’s glove compartment is a convenient place to store these items so that you’re sure to have them with you, there’s a good chance your personally identifiable information is in the vehicle. Those two documents alone often contain enough data for an identity thief to get a start on assuming your persona.
There’s an interesting type of theft associated with stealing the identity from a vehicle owner, and it actually leads to the theft of another car. Once someone steals your car and with it, your identity, they take your name, information, and proof of insurance to a new car lot in order to test drive a vehicle. When that person fails to return with the car, your information is associated with the theft.
Of course, if your car hasn’t been stolen and you are, in fact, in the market for a new vehicle, there can be other problems associated with turning your information over to a salesman. Face it, automobile sales is a tough line of work, and unfortunately, unscrupulous employees have fallen victim to the easy money associated with stealing your identity. Auto sales is one of those locations where you fill out a credit report and apply for financing right there on the spot, leaving behind all of your personally identifiable information with an employee who may be in dire financial straits himself.
Finally, remember that anything associated with your car can also be associated with your identity. This means that car washes, auto repair centers, even valet parking services can place employees inside your vehicle, giving them access to a fair amount of your content. Whether it’s an outright theft of your physical property—which can then result in a personal data breach—or just the theft of your information, be aware of who has access to your car and where you take your vehicle for service.
While no one would think to request copies of their credit scores just because a mechanic took the keys to the car, this is one of the many, many reasons why routine credit maintenance and habitual protection of your identity is so important. Don’t wait to find out from a bill collector that someone accessed your personal information from your car six months ago. Keep a close eye on your bank statements, financial statements, and credit and Social Security reports at all times so that any possible data breaches can be handled quickly, and with a minimum of tedious effort.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.