In 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.