Credit Advice

Breaking into cars to commit identity theft


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Credit Advice

Breaking into cars to commit identity theft

Dear Experian,

Someone broke into my car and stole my wallet out of my purse. How can I protect myself from fraud? My driver’s license, Social Security card and birth certificate were all in my wallet. I didn't have any money in it so it’s a possibility that they threw it away somewhere, but I don't want to take any chances.


Dear THE,

In the past, when people broke into your car they were after your radio or the car itself. Today, they are often looking for identifying information.

In a relatively new phenomenon, identity thieves are peeking into cars to see if there are purses, wallets or other paperwork sitting on the seat or the floor. They simply break a window, snatch the purse and take any identifying documents, credit cards and cash they find.

From that point they may go on a buying spree with the credit cards or use your identity to commit credit fraud or other types of identity fraud.

You should file a police report and notify your existing credit card providers of the theft so that they can prevent fraudulent charges from being made to the stolen cards. You also should add an initial security alert to your credit history.

The alert will last 90 days. That will provide some protection while you check your report for any fraudulent activity and determine what steps, such as adding a victim statement, are necessary.

You should never routinely carry your Social Security card with you. Instead, commit the number to memory. You also should not carry your birth certificate. People rarely do, so I suspect you had both documents for a reason.

Good, standard advice is to carry only the things you need in your wallet or purse. Usually that includes only the one or two credit cards you use, your driver’s license and your medical insurance cards.

Of course, I’m referring only to the financial and identifying documents you should carry – not to other important “stuff” like a pictures of your dog, children, or grandchildren!

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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