How to handle the theft or vandalism of your car
Every 26 seconds, a vehicle in the United States is stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Heed the warning to not be victimized twice - first by having your car stolen or vandalized and second by not having the correct insurance coverage to minize out-of-pocket costs.
"Auto theft is an expensive crime, so it is important to be prepared in advance to handle your vehicle being stolen. But all too often, consumers think only about ways to prevent a vehicle theft instead of how they would handle a theft or vandalism, which can lead to expensive consequences for the unprepared victim," says Carolyn Gorman, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute (III), a non-profit consumer education organization.
Victim Learns Why Taking Precautions is Not Enough
"Car thieves, like home burglars, are not usually deterred by a single layer of protection," says Steve Cox, Vice President, Communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus and car theft victim. Cox had two vehicles stolen in a three-year period when he was living in California, both of which had manufacturer-installed security systems that were disabled by the thieves. (These included a Pontiac Firebird with a CLUB anti-theft device that was stolen in daylight and a Nissan 300ZX that was stolen at night from a gated community.)
While it is important for consumers to know how to help prevent vehicle theft, the "Wiser Drivers Wise Up" program offered by the above organizations and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is focused on educating drivers to be better prepared to handle a vehicle theft when it does occur.
Being prepared also may ultimately help law enforcement recover your vehicle more quickly and reduce your expenses.
If you discover that your vehicle has been stolen, notify law enforcement immediately. Speed is essential in recovering stolen cars; any delay in reporting only helps the thieves. Be prepared to give its make, color, model, license plate number, and Vehicle Identification Number (located on a metal plate near where the windshield meets the dashboard on the driver's side).
Keep a photocopy of your license plate registration and insurance card in your wallet or at home. This will enable you to provide information quickly to law enforcement and your insurance claims agent.
Make your vehicle easier to identify. One way is to write your initials on an index card and drop it in the window slot, or carefully engrave your initials inside the trunk, hood, or even the dashboard near the VIN (vehicle identification) number.
Review your insurance policy annually. Don’t wait until after your vehicle is stolen to find out you don’t have the coverage you think you have. Unfortunately, although insurance for theft is included in the "comprehensive" part of an auto insurance policy, this coverage may not automatically include coverage for a replacement rental car until your car is found or insurance authorizes you to get a new car. Since replacement rental car coverage is only a couple dollars a month, it can cost more for a one-day car rental than for a full-year of coverage.
Exercise caution if you see someone tampering with your car. Call 911 as quickly as possible. Don’t initiate a fight with anyone, especially in a secluded area.
(Source: III, BBB, NCIB)