Mark Pribish

Your automobile and identity theft can be one in the same

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

It is estimated that one-third of all motor vehicle thefts involved identity theft where the contents of your vehicle directly relate to an individual identity theft event. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) there were 721,053 motor vehicle thefts in the U.S. in 2012, equating to 1,975 vehicles per day.

But it's not just about bad guys stealing your car or truck. Your car, truck or SUV will always be an opportunity for ID Theft. In order to finance a vehicle, register it, acquire license plates and insurance, you are required to share your Personally Identifiable Information (PII). State law requires that you possess your vehicle registration and proof of insurance when driving. Most of us simply keep this information in our glove compartments.

Car Theft

So what can happen when financing a vehicle? Specific to auto dealerships, there have been multiple news reports on how auto dealers lose vehicles to identity thieves acting as a new car buyer while fraudulently using someone else's PII to create fake identification and credentials. Once the vehicles are purchased, the real individuals whose PII was stolen are stuck with the problem of resolving these fraudulent purchases.

At the same time, there have been a number of news reports on how individual consumers have been victimized by auto dealership employees who have stolen the PII of customers. This has resulted in the opening of fraudulent credit cards and personal loans of individual car buying customers.

"The fact is your car is your identity," said Joe Annoreno, CEO of Scottsdale based Vero, LLC, an automotive finance and insurance products company. Annoreno said "the contents of your car such as a laptop, smartphone, tax information, driver's license, insurance card, registration, garage door opener, and personal mail/bills increase your risk of identity theft if your information is not locked up and secure."

Unbelievably, 31 percent of drivers fail to lock the doors of their vehicles, and 14 percent will leave the keys in the ignition, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. But even if we do lock our vehicles, it doesn't stop various third parties and burglars from accessing your PII related info.

When using car wash services, valet services, auto repair services, or any other automotive related service where you give up your keys to an unfamiliar person - you need to either take the contents from your vehicle or secure the contents to prevent any individual from stealing your personal information.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Who needs utilities anyway? Oh wait, we all do!

Electricity is without a doubt the greatest and most used convenience and utility ever. Unless you live in an underdeveloped or third-world country, you cannot help but use electricity, even without consciously thinking about it. After all, how are you reading this newsletter? Are your lights on? Is the refrigerator on and keeping your food cold? Is your air conditioning on? All of these common household appliances and conveniences rely on electricity. Even outside your home, you cannot escape using electricity. From intersections with traffic signals to ATM machines, grocery stores and more, electricity surrounds us.

Water is another utility we all use daily. We cannot survive without water of course, so having plumbing in the home, even to just drink is not really a luxury so much as it is a necessity. Let's not forget that you also wash your clothes, wash your dishes, flush your toilets, and shower with water. This is all part of our normal, daily lives, and it would be rather hard to live without water, or electricity.

Imagine now that your receive a phone call or an email from someone claiming to be a utility bill collector or a representative of some utility company. This individual threatens to turn off your utilities because you are delinquent on your bill unless you pay up immediately. Without air conditioning, it would be a painful summer in much of the US! However, some individuals that are current with their utility bills are receiving these types of calls. The callers are, of course, scam artists looking to take some money out of your pocket.

How It Works:

The scammer may threaten you with turning off gas, water, or other utilities. All they want is for you to pay your bill. You are told to call a specific phone number and give your credit, debit, or prepaid card number or they will turn off your utilities. In some cases, the caller demands that you wire the money. Once you divulge your credit or debit card number, or wire money to the caller to satisfy their demands, that money is gone.

Your Defense:

This is not a new scam, but it appears to be making the rounds again. An article on the FTC website indicates that there are a few ways to determine if you are being scammed, and what to do if you find yourself in that situation. I've listed several here for your convenience:

  • Make sure you're dealing with your utility company before you pay any amount

    • Most utility companies don't ask you to send your account information by email
    • Legitimate companies don't demand you use specific methods to pay
  • Never wire money to someone you don't know
  • Do not click links or call numbers that appear in unexpected emails or text
  • If you are falling behind on your utility bill, contact the utility company and see if they can work with you to come up with a payment plan and a way to keep your service on

If you think you may be the victim of this scam, report it to the FTC immediately. Stay vigilant when it comes to dealing with people with whom you have not had prior communications, whether over the phone or by email.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.