A vehicle’s car registration helps connect the vehicle to its owner. It also distinguishes the car from other cars that are the same make and model. When a car’s ownership is registered, a vehicle registration card is created, which is designed to be kept inside the vehicle.
Unfortunately, if a thief steals a vehicle’s registration card, the information can be used to commit several kinds of vehicle fraud.
Why Would Someone Steal My Car’s Registration?
Although a car’s registration is viewed by most people as a way to identify the vehicle, the information can serve as a gateway to a potential goldmine for crooks. Here are the details on several scams that thieves can pull off when they access your car’s registration information.
Cloning Your Car’s VIN
VIN cloning is when the VIN from one car is used to create a phony VIN to attach to other cars. Stealing a vehicle registration card allows fraudsters to clone VINs because, among other information it lists the Vehicle Identification Number along with owner information like name, address, and phone number , which is all the information a thief needs to clone the VIN.
After the thief has a stolen registration card, here are the steps he can take to use the VIN illegally:
- Steal a similar car that’s the same make and model as the car he stole the registration card from.
- Use the stolen VIN information to create a new VIN tag for the stolen vehicle and make the stolen car appear to be a legitimately owned vehicle.
- Create counterfeit ownership documents, such a title, and sell the vehicle to an unsuspecting person — often below market value to move the car faster.
It’s important to note that multiple tags with the same VIN are often cloned, so that this scam can be perpetrated more than once with the same information.
Making Counterfeit Materials to Sell
Thieves can also use stolen registration cards to make fake stickers and documents, such as VIN stickers, bar codes, registration cards and titles. They can then sell these items to other dishonest people who are looking to profit from your personal information.
Test-Driving and Stealing a New Car
Thieves can take your vehicle’s registration information — and proof of insurance information if they swiped that, too — to test drive a new car. They simply go to a dealership, hand over the information and drive away in the car they are test driving, never to return.
Unfortunately, because it’s your information that was used to gain access, you’ll be contacted regarding the theft.
How to Report a Stolen Car Registration
As soon as you notice that your car registration was stolen, it’s important to report it. Here are the steps to take.
- Call Your Local Law Enforcement Office. Gather all of the information about your vehicle, such as year, make, model, license plate number and VIN. Report the stolen registration, and the details of how and where the theft happened, to your local police or sheriff’s office.
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Call your state’s DMV to report the stolen registration. You will need to have your vehicle’s license plate number and its year, make and model available. You’ll also need your auto insurance information and your driver’s license number.
You may have to go to your local DMV to obtain a new registration card, or you may be able to complete a new registration by mail.
- Contact Your Insurance Company. You may also want to contact your insurance company to report the incident, so it’s aware that you are at risk of identity theft. If the thief stole your insurance information, it can be used fraudulently.
How to Avoid Vehicle Identity Theft
To avoid vehicle identity theft, there are several things you can do that are proactive. Here are some to consider.
- Think Before You Park: Always park your car in your garage, if possible. If not, park in a well-lit area that’s close to your home or workplace.
- Lock Your Car: Thieves are often in a hurry and seek out easy pathways to get what they want. A locked car is not nearly as attractive as an unlocked one.
- Lock the Glove Compartment: Even if a thief can break into your vehicle, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add extra layers of protection that can slow down potential theft. Keep your personal information in a locked glove compartment.
- Have a Car Alarm That Alerts Your Phone and Tracks Your Car’s Location: Car alarms have been around for years, but their technology has become increasingly more advanced than an ear-piercing blast of sounds designed to scare a thief away.
You can now invest in a car alarm that is designed to alert your phone immediately if your car is tampered with. And if your car is stolen, some alarms offer a feature that can allow you to track its location.
Keeping Tabs on Your Personal Information
If someone breaks into your vehicle to steal your car registration information, they may also gain access to other personal information that would allow them to steal your identity. Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your credit by opening accounts and obtaining loans in your name.
If you’re not already using a product that helps you keep an eye on your credit history, you may want to consider ScoreSense. With ScoreSense, you’ll gain access to reports and scores from all three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — so you can get the picture of your credit history.