How A Thief Can Steal Your Identity From Your Vehicle

How A Thief Can Steal Your Identity From Your Vehicle

Car thiefIn the past, identity thieves dug through the trash to find pieces of mail with sensitive information, or they listened over the phone to capture credit card or social security numbers. In today’s world, however, identity thieves are becoming more and more creative.

Thieves are now able to steal a consumer’s information through sophisticated methods like SMSishing and P2P file sharing. Few criminals begin their exploits without understanding how shoulder surfing works. These criminals have even developed methods that allow them to steal a person’s identity directly from his or her vehicle. Some of the most common vehicle-related methods of identity theft are included below.

License Plate Theft

One new method of identity theft involves stealing a vehicle’s license plate. Most license plates are easy to remove, and thieves can access them without any trouble when a car is parked and left unattended for more than 10 minutes. Once the thief has stolen the license plate, he can use it to disguise a stolen car, commit traffic violations, steal gasoline and engage in other illegal activities.Because any witness or camera who sees the car will identify it using its license plate number, investigators will incorrectly assume that the crime was committed by the license plate’s original owner.

To prevent license plate theft, try to park your car in crowded, well-lit areas whenever you can. You should also make sure that your license plate is firmly attached to the car and is as difficult to remove as possible. If you notice that your license plate has been stolen, notify the police immediately.

Breach of Dealership Security

Auto dealerships frequently copy customers’ driver’s licenses, social security cards and other identifying information when helping them apply for loans or register new vehicles. If the dealership keeps this information on file, a breach of security within the dealership can make all previous customers vulnerable to identity theft. Using the information they find, criminals can open fraudulent accounts, apply for credit and commit other crimes.

To protect yourself from dealership-related identity theft, make sure that you use only reputable auto dealerships when purchasing new vehicles. It’s also wise to invest in identity theft protection services so that you will know immediately if someone steals your sensitive information.

Vehicle Registration Theft

Most drivers keep their vehicle registration inside their vehicles. If a thief enters the vehicle illegally, he can steal this paperwork and use it to commit identity theft. Thieves who steal vehicle registrations can use them to apply for fraudulent license plates. They can also use the information on the registration, such as the owner’s address and full name, to apply for accounts and commit other crimes.

To prevent this type of identity theft, don’t keep your vehicle’s registration in obvious places, like your glove box. Instead, pin the registration under the seat or keep it with you. If you must keep your registration in your car, remove it when the car will be left unattended for long periods of time. If you find that your vehicle’s registration has been stolen, report it to the police as quickly as possible to prevent the thief from using it.

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15 thoughts on “How A Thief Can Steal Your Identity From Your Vehicle

  1. Timothy

    Well damn, I never realized having your license plate stolen was a problem… Surely even if that did happen, you wouldn’t be held accountable for the things they did with your plate? Although it might be difficult to prove it wasn’t you, especially if the car they used matches your actual car. Man, I can’t believe I never even thought about this before! It’s so interesting, and kind of scary, but I’ve never heard of it happening around me before so it must not be a huge problem.

  2. John O'Flaherty

    I’m curious if someone can steal my identity simply by writing down my license plate number, and then going to some data source online? I notice that some TV shows will actually go to the trouble of blurring out license plate numbers, but I never understood the reason for that. If any plate is visible to anyone who sees a car parked in public, how’s it any different if the plate is seen on TV or a picture/video on the internet? I’m curious what source a criminal might use, and why aren’t these sources being shut down by the authorities, if in fact they exist? Thank you.

  3. Celeste McGee

    My UNCLE and I had just left the market. As we returned we noticed that the front license plate was missing. It was a Maryland license plate. So what, that person has malice intentions? Wow, what a wonderful world we live in. I hope that person rots behind bars, that one incident can cause an ongoing chain of inconveniences.

    1. Christopher Richards

      If someone steals your license plate tag. Report it to the police as soon as you are aware of it. Once the police is notified the tag is stolen then they will put a alert out. Plus if the cop spots the tag then they will pull the vehicle the tag is on then all the cops have to do is pull the tag up in the system plus they can also see the vin number information on the system when pulling the tag up and cops will check the vin number on the vehicle which is on the left driver side where the windshield wiper is and they will know right then the tags that were stolen and the vin do not match. Theives dont realize they will get caught. Cops are trained to verify the vin number outside below the windshield and check that the registration says the same vin number that says on the vin number below the windshield.

  4. Shura

    I had my license plate stolen several years back. Drove a silver mercury sable at the time. Thankfully caught it within an hour of the theft (my car was parked at a hotel I worked at). The plates were eventually recovered, attached to another Sable. I never found out if that car was used in a crime

  5. Rick S.

    I just had someone email me in regards to buying my BMW. He insisted that his bank needed a DMV VIN report. I went on line got one and sent it to him. Now I do not hear from him. Have I been scammed?

    1. Karen Bowman Post author

      Hi Rick, you should contact your local police department non-emergency number and provide them with this information. They are best suited to advise you regarding scams and what next steps to take to protect yourself.

  6. Damian

    Alur Avtoprom ( also known as Alpine Auto) in Montreal has committed this offense although I’m not certain how often they’ve done this, I can attest to my own personal experience. The owner of this used car dealership stole my vehicle registration, and submitted it to the Quebec Motor Vehicle registry. This obviously transferred the vehicle to his dealership name, and ownership. I filed a fraud charge against the dealership in November of 2015, and since then I have been contacted daily by cell phone companies and a couple banks for collections of accounts I’ve never had. So yes, from a simple vehicle registration, a thief can literally steal your entire identity.

  7. Mark

    I just had the vehicle registration stolen from my broken down van that was going to be towed to Pick nPull in Calgary by the Kidney Foundation. The Kidney Foundation requires you leave vehicle registration or bill of sale in the glove box for the tow driver. So bill of sale or registration requires address, signature, type of vehicle and vin # of the vehicle you are donating. Because they can come at any time you cannot leave the info with the mechanic as they may be closed when the Tow Truck driver arrives. This needs to change, I wont leave mine inside again. The mechanic shop and Kidney foundation will have to work together.
    Sometime between Sunday and Tuesday when the vehicle was towed, someone stole the registration. I had removed the licence plate. Two days later someone came to my house and replaced the licence plate on my car with a stolen plate. In between the time of the stolen registration and the stolen plate I asked Calgary City Police for advice, my insurance and a registry and was told there wasn’t much the criminals could do with just the registration that they couldn’t do by looking up your name and address in a phone book. Apparently not. Although I do not understand why they would take the risk to drive to my house to see what other vehicles I might have that might match a vehicle they stole. The two incidents may not be related as our neighbors had their vehicles broken into four months earlier. However, its pretty suspicious. Can a criminal working inside a registry use the registration from one vehicle to get into a database and see what else you own?

    1. Mark

      Well after asking a third time at another registry, and confirming with the RCMP, the answer is Yes a criminal element inside a registry can using one vehicle’s registration find out the other cars you own.
      And finally this is what I have learned you should do once your registration is stolen from a vehicle that you no longer own. This despite previous police and registries telling me since the vehicle was now safetly at Pick n Pull the registration cannot do much.
      1) Put locking licence plate covers or bolts on your remaining vehicles
      Here is a cheap way that will work on some vehicles – works wonders on mine – it uses lock nut bolts and a washer on the inside of your trunk or wherever your licence plate screws end.
      2) Keep Registration and Insurance in the trunk of your car – not your glove compartment
      3) Phone both Equifax and Transunion and have identity theft alert put on your file in case someone applies for credit using your name and address. Cost is $5.20 each
      4) Ask your local registry every few months, or until you feel safe, run a licence plate search to see if there are unknown plates registered against your name. Cost is $25.00 in Alberta. Report these to your local police.
      5)Finally, if you have a super mailbox go to the post office and have an alert put on your file that no new keys can be issued without a phone call to your residence confirming you have requested new keys.

      I am surprised I had to find this all out for myself by researching and playing what if scenarios.

  8. Kathy k.

    Let my brother borrow one of our vehicles to pick up stuff at Home Depot. While getting gas at a station, a guy came up to him and yelled saying he had hit his vehicle. My brother swears his vehicle did not touch his. Guy told my brother he needed money. So my dumb brother pulls out a $20 to get rid of him. He also talked him in to showin our insurance card. He let them copy it and they drove off. Guy called my insurance company. So far no claim. Guy’s car had no tags and not registered. What can that guy do with my info on insurance card?

  9. Distraught Consumer

    My mom passed away and had no will. so my dishonest sister went to DMV lied and stated she was the sole heir and that the car was not in probate this is been going on your a year and DMV will not take responsibility and reverse the mistake they made.
    Now my cousin who was baby sitting my mom’s car went to DMV and put the car in one of his nephews name with no title or pink slip? How come DMV can get away with alerting human beings lives and not get sued or shut down.

    1. Karen Bowman Post author

      Hello, I’m sorry for your loss and for the experiences you had with the DMV. This is a blog post that was provided by a guest author, so, I can only suggest that you contact your local law enforcement for advice on what you can do.

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