A car is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States. Learn how to deal with your auto insurance company and the police with our step by step instructions.
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Americans travel by car more than any other nation in the world, so it comes as no surprise that we often take our cars for granted. For those of us who live in particularly suburban areas, we frequently use our cars to commute to and from work, to run errands, or to visit others. So when you step outside to find your vehicle missing, you feel completely helpless and disconnected from the world. Many of us never think to prepare for a theft even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that a car is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States. With these odds it’d be best to have an idea of what to expect when you can’t find your vehicle so that this stressful process can go over a little more smoothly.
What to do if your car is stolen:
- Keep calm: It’s completely normal to panic when your car isn’t where you left it and your thoughts immediately jump to the worse scenario -- theft. However you should try to keep calm. After all, times like this are exactly why you carry insurance. Before concluding your car has been stolen, ask yourself if it’s been misplaced, towed, repossessed, or borrowed by a relative without asking.
- Check if your vehicle has just been towed: It’s possible your car was simply towed because you parked in a no parking zone or a reserved parking space. Before calling the police of your insurance agent, make sure you contact local towing companies and the owner of the property if they towed your vehicle. There are also websites that allow you to track your towed vehicle by the VIN number.
- Call police: If you’ve exhausted all other possibilities and are sure your vehicle has been stolen, call the police and report it missing. Make sure to give police adequate information about your vehicle including your VIN number, license plate number, make, model, color, if it has a GPS tracking device, and any other distinguishable traits.
- File a police report:After reporting your car missing with police, you must file a police report before contacting your insurance agent. Some providers won’t pay a claim if a report hasn’t been filed.
- Call your insurance agent: Contact your provider in order to begin the claims process. You must have comprehensive coverage to cover the the cost of theft, however even if you don’t have comprehensive you should still call your agent. Your liability will cover you in the event that the thieves caused property damage while operating your car. If the thought of not being covered in the event of a theft concerns you, use a quote comparison site, like Insurify.com, to customize, build, and buy premiums online. Your provider will need more information including:
Call your lender: If you’re leasing or financing your car, let your moneylender know of the theft. Some providers would prefer to work with your lender during a theft situation.
- The vehicle’s title
- The location of all keys
- The mileage of the vehicle
- A list of people who have admittance to the car
- A list of personal items in the car at the time of the theft
- Where you last saw your vehicle
- If the car has a GPS/anti-theft tracking device
- If you saw any broken glass in the spot where your car was parked
- Phone or social media account records
What is auto insurance fraud?
As you can see, there are many steps you’ll have to go through before your provider honors your claim and you see compensation for your loss. Your agent’s requests may seem to invade your personal privacy, but this is only because the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that of all property and casualty claims,10% are fraudulent. Fraudulent cases cost American taxpayers a whomping $40 billion dollars each year. Therefore insurance companies must rule out the owner of the car as the prime suspect by looking at suspicious behaviors such as:
- A large amount of debt
- Lack of police reports, but a large amount of previous claims
- Damage or theft of items that are difficult to determine a value for, such as heirlooms
- Not being upset over a major loss
Don’t worry if you do exhibit some of these behaviors when your car has actually been stolen. They aren’t the only clues companies use to accuse someone of fraud.
In the end, if the police have recovered your vehicle (which according to Esurance.com is an 88% chance), call your insurance provider immediately so that they can appraise any damages, decide if it needs repairs or replacement, and settle your claim. Sadly, if your vehicle couldn’t be recovered, you’ll still need to call your provider so that they can settle your claim and you can begin to shop for a new car.
Ways to keep your car safe from theft:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 50% of car thefts are due to common mistakes made by the owner. Don’t be a statistic. Follow these safety protocols:
- Always keep your doors locked whether you’re in the car or not.
- Always keep your windows rolled up when you aren’t in the vehicle.
- Don’t leave your car running if you aren’t in it.
- Don’t leave a spare set of keys in your vehicle.
- Try not to keep possessions in your vehicles. You never know what could tempt a thief to break in your car. If you must keep valuables in your car, hide them under seats or in the trunk.
- Try to park in a well-lit area or near security cameras.
- In the event that someone is trying to steal your vehicle while you're in it, don't resist. Calmly get out of the car and contact the police when it's safe to do so. Your car isn't worth your safety, which is exactly why car insurance exists to compensate such losses.