3 Things to Do if Your Car Is Stolen
Picture this: you wake up bright and early, ready to face the day. But something is wrong. As you peek out the window, you notice your car is gone. The keys are in their usual location, so how could this happen? Why did this happen at all?
Sadly, you’re in good company. According to the FBI, criminals stole over 400,000 vehicles in 2020 alone. Fortunately, car insurance for a stolen car is indeed available, but there are some additional steps you need to take after such a crime happens to you.
First and foremost, remember that car theft is a crime of opportunity. It’s likely that you didn’t do anything specific to trigger criminals being interested in your wheels. It is very common for victims of any crime to blame themselves. Motor vehicle theft is a high-opportunity crime with high margins for criminals.
Here’s a list of important things to remember if your car is stolen.
#1 – Stay Calm and Determine the Facts
Once you move past the initial shock of what happened, it’s time to get down to business. It is the hardest thing to do, but you have to remain as focused on the facts as possible.
When you report accurate information to your insurance company, everyone benefits. Indeed, crime reports affect more than just your policy; they affect everyone’s policies. Crime data is part of what insurance underwriters use to determine your premiums.
As car insurance continues to evolve and progress, the importance of accurately reporting car theft grows; it’s the best thing you can do to help keep premiums in your area low for everyone. After all, just because your car is missing does not necessarily mean it was stolen. You should also consider looking into the latest car security systems to help you prevent car theft from happening in the first place.
Was your car towed?
Did you park your car in the wrong spot or in a zone where parking is prohibited? If so, it’s important to check the local towing companies first.
When your vehicle gets towed by the police, they will call their contracted towing company of record. If you don’t know who that is for your town, you can call the non-emergency line and ask the operator. They will be happy to put you in touch with the towing company.
When you call the towing company, you can check to see if your vehicle is at the tow yard. Be sure to provide correct information, including your license plate number and VIN.
Was your car misplaced?
Did a close friend borrow your vehicle? Did you forget where you parked? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Driving while sleepy can mess up your memory and make it hard to function the next day. You could have parked in a different place and forgotten about anything other than the need to get a good night’s sleep.
Retrace your steps as much as possible before declaring that the vehicle is stolen. If you hung out with friends the night before, give them a call and see if they remember your mentioning anything about your vehicle being in a different place.
#2 – Call the Police and Report the Stolen Vehicle
Let’s say that you’ve retraced your steps, talked to the towing companies, and double-checked with your friends about your vehicle, yet everything points to a stolen vehicle rather than a misplaced one. It’s time to call the police.
Be sure that you’re calling the right number. It’s better to call the non-emergency line instead of 911 to free up dispatchers to focus on imminent danger and other emergencies, but 911 will still take your call.
The police officer that comes to your location will want the facts, so handle the police report process after you’ve had time to recover from the shock of the vehicle being gone. Give them as much information as you remember, along with the approximate time you remember the vehicle being in your possession.
Many police departments today leverage software analytics to fight crime, so being accurate and concise with your information is a must. (Did you know that there’s actually a market for police software?)
File a Police Report Before Filing a Claim
It might seem like the police report is a waste of time, but that’s not the case here. In fact, if you have car insurance for a stolen car, insurance companies want to make sure that you have a police report in hand before moving forward with your claim. It shows that you’re serious about the theft and that you’ve done everything on your part to handle the aftermath.
Today, many police departments provide digital copies of the police report online. You may have to pay a small fee to access the police report, but a digital copy is very helpful for the insurance company. It’s much faster to send the digital report over to your insurance carrier than to have to try to fax or mail something.
Remember that your police report is more powerful than it seems at first glance. Indeed, by reporting the theft, you’re helping your local law enforcement team track patterns of theft across your city. This is helpful when law enforcement is trying to uncover gangs of car thieves as they often leave clues behind in car thefts.
#3 – Contact Your Car Insurance Company
After you have a copy of the police report, it’s time to contact your car insurance company. If you’ve never filed a claim before, you may feel a bit nervous. It’s a stressful time, but this is the point of obtaining car insurance for a stolen car.
You want to make sure that your insurance company supports you when you need help, like after a car theft. It’s okay to be nervous, shocked, afraid, and unsure of the process.
To ease your mind, here’s what you need to have on hand when you’re contacting insurance:
- All the basic details of your vehicle – Yes, the insurance company will have the information, but they still want to log the details for this particular claim. This information includes your year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as any existing damage that you can remember.
- The last date and time you had the vehicle in your possession – The insurance company will want to know this information to use as a benchmark in the investigation.
- The police report number as well as the police department – You don’t have to have the name of the officer that came to take the report, as that information will be on the actual police report.
- The number of keys you have to your car as well as how many you have in your possession currently – The insurance company wants to know if someone else has a key to your vehicle, as there is a chance that person has your vehicle.
- What personal items were in the vehicle at the time of the theft – You might not remember all the stuff you had in your car, but try to give your insurance company as much detail as you can. Every insurance policy is different, but there can be coverage for personal effects after a car theft.
- The official title for the vehicle – If you don’t have a copy of this, you can get a duplicate title, but that may take additional time.
Each insurance company that offers car insurance for a stolen car may ask additional questions outside of these points. Be sure to use your insurance company’s policyholder information portal to submit information and check to ensure that they received it.
Try to do everything you can to ensure that your claim is processed properly and the insurance company has all the information they need.
Luke Williams writes and researches for the legal advice site, FreeAdvice.com. His passions include personal finance, insurance, investing, and helping people save money and drive safely.
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