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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

Protecting Yourself from Auto-Related Identity Theft

Are you guilty of leaving personal documents in your vehicle?

You might make a point to shred your old documents, taking care to keep your personal information from falling into the hands of an identity thief dumpster diving near your house. Before they hit the shredder, you might even make sure your most sensitive papers are kept behind a locked door, either in your home office or a filing cabinet. But, can you say you’re quite as diligent when it comes to cleaning up your car? While the contents of your vehicle may never enter your mind when you think about protecting your identity, consumers tend to leave more than enough information behind the wheel to compromise their security without even realizing it.

Junkyard identity theft

When drivers send their car to a junkyard after a serious accident, they are often too preoccupied dealing with the crash to carefully remove everything from their car. As a result, many end up leaving behind documents they would have otherwise sent to the shredder. In separate investigations, two NBC news teams managed to find pay stubs, vehicle registrations, tax forms, debit cards, old bills and insurance policies in cars left unlocked in junkyards. From these documents alone, one could gather bank account numbers, addresses, taxpayer identification numbers and more. Plus, abandoned GPS systems and garage door openers could have given them access to homes where far more such documents were stored.

“They can then use all that information to either take out credit in your name or run other sorts of scams that will really put you in a financially perilous situation,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told NBC Chicago.

In many cases, the reporters noted, the vehicles were open to anyone browsing through the junkyard. By failing to empty their vehicles, drivers effectively left behind a buffet that would satisfy even the hungriest of identity thieves. What person wants to add the inconvenience of identity theft to their life just after suffering a major car accident?

Beyond the junkyard

While the importance of cleaning out your vehicle before sending it to the junkyard cannot be overstated, a relatively small percent of drivers have to take that step during their lifetime. On the other hand, most drivers carry sensitive documents with them every day, putting them at an increased risk of identity theft. As devastating as a car theft or break-in could be, leaving personal information unsecured in your vehicle could add identity theft to your list of woes.

Here are a few tips you can use to protect yourself from auto-related ID theft:

  • Don’t leave your registration or proof of insurance unsecured in your vehicle. Either store it in a locked glove compartment or carry it with you in your wallet.
  • Never store documents in your car. Even if you’re going to need them later in the day, carry anything that may contain sensitive information with you.
  • Always lock your car doors when you leave your vehicle.
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain sight. This could tempt someone to break in, where they could find personal information.
  • Clean out your car on a weekly basis. It can be easy to forget a piece of paper or ID card in your car, but it’s crucial you don’t leave it there longer than necessary.
  • Don’t leave your purse or wallet in your vehicle.

No matter how careful you are, however, there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of identity theft. Signing up with a credit monitoring service can go a long way toward helping you limit the damage if your identity is compromised, as they can alert you when they detect certain activity, giving you a chance to freeze your accounts and dispute the charges. To learn more about how credit monitoring companies like Identity Guard can help you protect your identity, contact us today.