Why What’s In Your Vehicle Matters to Thieves
While you might think identity theft is limited to a thief stealing mail or an online scam, there are ways scammers target vehicles. Thieves have become savvy in their techniques and might target your vehicle to obtain the VIN number and registration for stolen vehicles they’re trying to get out of the country. Or, they might steal your wallet or purse and use the information to take out a new mortgage or open credit cards. Here are a few ways culprits might try to steal your identity by tampering with your vehicle. And, how to best safeguard your identity.
Ways Thieves Target Vehicles
You might think having a car alarm or the Club anti-theft device will stop a thief trying to take off with your car or truck. And, for the most part, that’s true. But there are other ways thieves might try to steal or target your vehicle.
Stealing your car keys
If a thief gets your car keys, they can undo the alarm and disengage the Club and take off with your vehicle.
To prevent this: Always keep track of your car keys. Never leave them on a store counter, for example. A thief might see this as easy access to a vehicle. They will target people with a lot of bags, the elderly and parents distracted with small children. Also, when home, tuck your key fob in a drawer far away from the front door. Thieves have gone high-tech and have figured out ways to steal your key fob’s signal giving them easy access to your car.
Copying down your VIN number
Your vehicle identification number (VIN) is viewable from the front of your windshield. A thief can walk past your vehicle and write it down. They can then apply for duplicate paperwork and use it for a stolen vehicle.
To prevent this: One way is to place a piece of paper over the VIN number from the inside. Some people even use a cut-out section from a file folder to cover their VIN number.
Stealing your auto insurance information or driving permit
If a thief gets into your glove compartment, they might use your auto insurance policy number to make a fake insurance claim. Or, if they steal your driving permit, they might use it try to ship a stolen vehicle out of the country.
Stealing a wallet, briefcase or purse
Some thieves are so brazen, they’ve stolen wallets, briefcases or purses left in vehicles and started a new mortgage against the victim’s property. Whether it’s for identity theft or just to get your stuff, some of the things thieves look for include drivers licenses and passports; Cash, ATM cards, credit cards and pin numbers; Bank account details and other personal data.
To avoid this: Never leave your wallet, purse or briefcase exposed in a vehicle. Take all your valuables with you every time you leave the car. Your car is not a safe place to store anything of value or personal so play it safe and take it with you or leave it at home.
Taking your car plates
A brazen thief might try to make off with your aluminum licence plates. All they have to do is unscrew them and they can then use the plates on a stolen vehicle.
To avoid this: Purchase plate lockers. These have tamper-proof bolts. A special wrench is required to unbolt the plates without causing any damage to the tags.
How To Tell If Your Identity is Stolen
You might not know right away if a thief steals your registration from your glove compartment. Most people only check their glove compartments every so often. But there are a few tell-tale signs of a break-in to your vehicle or that your identity has been stolen.
Be suspicious of new pieces of mail that come in or mail that goes missing. Look for letters from credit card companies stating the person was approved for, or denied a form of credit. This is a red flag if you’ve never applied for a new credit card account.
If you notice letters like your credit card statements are missing from your mail, a thief might be checking your mailbox.
You receive letters from collection agencies about accounts you don’t have.
You get pulled over by the police and they state your VIN number is identified with a similar, stolen vehicle.
Steps to Help Prevent Identity Theft With Your Vehicle
A few extra steps can help you reduce the identity theft risk to your vehicle. These include:
Always lock all doors on your vehicle and keep your windows rolled up. Keep your alarm on at all times even when the vehicle is parked at home, school or work.
Keep your insurance documentation and vehicle registration with you and don’t leave them in your vehicle. If you want to store a copy of your registration in your vehicle if the police ever need to see it, hide it somewhere under your seat.
Never leave a purse, wallet or bags in full view. Store all shopping bags in the trunk and covered with a blanket. If you’re shopping around the holidays and have several bags, store these in the trunk then move your car (even if you haven’t finished shopping). That way when you go back inside a thief can’t tell that you already have bags in the trunk.
Always park in well-lit areas preferably under surveillance cameras.
Report any suspicious people in your neighbourhood.
Talk to your neighbours and alert each other if you are travelling so someone can listen out.
Never leave your keys in your vehicle to run into a store. Thieves have taken off in stolen vehicles in seconds and sometimes with small children inside.
Ensure your auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage to cover any break-ins. Comprehensive covers thefts, fires, natural disasters and vandalism.
If you lose your purse or wallet or if you’re the victim of identity theft, report it to the police. You can also alert the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which helps identity theft victims.
Never send photocopies of your driver’s licence online. And, don’t give out your licence number, insurance number or VIN number over the phone or in emails. Thieves might call pretending they’re with motor vehicles or your insurer. Instead, hang up and call motor vehicles or your insurer directly to confirm it’s them. Thieves can also send fake emails in a phishing scam to steal your ID.
If buying a used vehicle in a private sale, ask for the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) from the seller and review it carefully.