If you think locking your car would keep your belongings on the inside safe, you are wrong. A thief who wants to break into your car can break the window or punch out the key hold on the door to gain entry to your vehicle and everything inside.
As a Bakersfield, California news site points out, car thieves aren't just interested in taking your stereo anymore. They're looking for something more valuable – your identity. That's why it's becoming more important that you think twice about what you leave in your car, locked or unlocked.
Credit cards and debit cards
Most people realize a thief can steal a credit card and rack up credit card charges. Fortunately, you won't be responsible for any of these charges if you report the stolen credit card before any fraudulent charges are made. The most you'll ever be liable for is $50.
Thieves can steal your checks and use them to make purchases or siphon money from your bank account. They can even use your bank account information, which is printed at the bottom of the check, to create fake checks in their own names.
A few unopened envelopes might seem harmless, but stolen mail could lead to more serious problems. For example, some credit card issuers print the full credit card number on your billing statement. Your bank statement could include copies of cancelled checks, which could be used in checking account fraud.
Bills you intend to mail
Your unmailed bills probably contain checks. Thieves can use chemicals to wash the ink from your fill-in checks and write whatever they want in the blanks. Or, they can just use your checking account and routing number to create an unlimited number of checks in their own name.
Your Social Security number or ID Card
Your Social Security number, or ID Card, is a goldmine to identity thieves. With your Social Security number, a thief can open a slew of new credit cards and loans in your name and even pretend to be you. It could take years (or even longer) to get rid of the consequences of a stolen Social Security number. Don't leave your Social Security card or anything with your SSN on it in your car.
Your laptop, phone, and other gadgets
Your electronic devices hold more of your personal information than you realize. You might have usernames and passwords stored or "remembered" on your laptop. A thief could use your cell phone to contact your family or friends to get your personal information. It's wise to protect your devices with a PIN or password, but a determined hacker can get around these walls and get to the information they need.
Preventing and responding to ID theft
When it comes to identity theft, prevention is the best option. You can best protect your identity by keeping all your personal information safe and secure. If your car is broken into, consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report, even if you don't immediately notice anything is missing.
Posted April 13th, 2010 by LaToya Irby.