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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

Identity Theft a Threat at the Scene of an Auto Accident

by Steve Schwartz on

Identity theft as the result of a minor traffic accident?  The connection just doesn't seem apparent but the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is sufficiently concerned that identity theft might result from the information drivers think they must give out after an accident that the organization has issued a detailed warning.

NAIC is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

NAIC's warning came after the organization conducted a national survey which found that respondents don't really know what information they must under state law share with the other driver or drivers following an accident. State laws vary the insurance commissioners say, "but in most cases you need only provide your name and vehicle insurance information, which should include the name and phone number of your insurance provider."

The survey found:

  • Thirty-eight percent of consumers believed they should share their driver's license number with the other driver — one in six would even allow the other driver to photograph the license as a convenient way to exchange information.
  • Twenty-five percent surveyed said they would share their home address.
  • Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents believed they are required to share personal phone numbers.

Essentially the insurance commissioners say No, No and No.

The danger of giving out your driver's license number, to what is essentially a stranger, is that it might be possible with that number for the individual to recreate your license – if they are so inclined. If you allowed them to take a picture of the license, duplicating is potentially so much easier and that would all but invite identity theft.

As for giving out your home address and phone number, in most states this is not required. All that is required in most states is to show proof of insurance including the policy number, and how to contact your insurer.

What should you do if you are involved in an accident?  If the accident is extremely minor, an exchange of vehicle owner's names, car license numbers and insurance information is probably all that is required. If the accident is more serious, then call the police.

Nearly 20 percent of respondents to the survey believed the only reason to call police after an accident is if someone is injured. Not true, say the insurance commissioners. They point out that filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.

What it comes down to is a high percentage of drivers simply don't know what is required of them in the case of an accident. Do you?

Identity protection is probably the last thing on a driver's mind after a crash. To take some of the guesswork out what is undoubtedly a tense situation in the wake of an accident; NAIC has developed WreckCheck, a new, free mobile app for both iPhones and Android smartphones. The new app outlines what to do immediately following an accident, and walks users through a step-by-step process to create their own accident report.

If you don't have a smartphone, NAIC offers a downloadable accident checklist you can printout and keep in your glove box. Identity protection is at the heart of the app and the check list.