These days, exercising a little restraint—or at least questioning why the information is needed and how it will be stored safely—is a good idea.
There are some times when you need to hand it over, though, and it can be a little daunting. One of the common questions consumers ask of the Identity Theft Resource Center concerning their PII, is how much you should provide when there’s been a car accident?
The short answer is to be careful, but you will ultimately have to turn over a good bit of your information.
The first step is to find out what your state requires and what your insurance provider requires in the event of an accident.
Depending on your state, you may even be legally required to show documents, like proof of insurance, or you risk a citation from the officer on the scene. But there are plenty of other caution signs to be aware of, especially in small incidents that don’t involve the authorities.
There are some pieces of information that you should readily provide.
This includes your name, your vehicle’s information (including the make, model, year, color, VIN, and license plate number), and your insurance company, including their phone number and your policy number. If you do not have insurance, provide your address and phone number.
Most likely you’ll need to exchange driver’s license numbers. It’s OK to write it down but do not allow the other party to photograph it or (obviously) take it with them. The same is true of your insurance documents and your registration for the vehicle. It’s fine to let them see you have it and even write down some pertinent information like your policy number, but actual photographs of these items or your driver’s license can be used to reproduce the document and steal your identity.
It’s a good idea to call the police in the event of a traffic accident, even a minor one.
The resulting police report provides a legal document of what happened, as well as the names of the people involved. If the other person was to use your information for identity theft, the police report can serve as one level of proof about how they got your information.. Avoid the temptation not to involve the police unless you’re certain it’s a minor accident and no one has been injured; failing to call the police in this matter can cost you some of your legal protection if issues arise in the days afterward. Learn how to file an accident report through your local DMV.
If you have reason to believe that your information may have been used for identity theft purposes, you can talk to your DMV’s fraud department. Explain your situation and ask if they can flag your license number.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.