Don't let an accident wreck your identity, too

By Posted : 08/16/2012

what personal info to share when in a car accidentThink you need to share your driver's license information and home address after a crash? Wrong.

That's the word from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is warning motorists that they could be victims of identity theft if they provide those details. To make it easier to share only necessary information with another driver and compile an insurance accident report, the NAIC recently released its free WreckCheck mobile app that runs on most smartphones, including iPhones and those with the Android operating system.

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"The last thing you're probably thinking about following a car accident is protecting your privacy," Kevin McCarty, NAIC president and Florida insurance commissioner, said in a statement. "Understanding what information to share, and with whom, will help keep you safe after an accident and decrease some of the challenges of filing a claim later on. The WreckCheck app will take the guesswork out of what information to get following a car accident."

To learn more about the app, including how to get it, visit WreckCheck. If you don't have a smartphone, the association has a downloadable accident checklist. (See: "Car insurance firms revving up mobile app features.")

TMI: Do I have to provide personal info after a collision?

The NAIC warning comes after its July survey showed that many drivers aren't sure exactly what information should be shared. Among the findings:

1. Thirty-eight percent of drivers surveyed thought they should give their driver's license number to the other motorist. One in six would let their license be photographed as an easy way to exchange information.

But the NAIC says there's a risk involved in giving out license details. Driver's licenses are one of the most common things used to confirm identity. You don't need to provide this information.

2. A quarter of motorists said they would provide their home address.

You don't want to give out the physical location of your mail or garbage because identity thieves can look for personal information in your trash - unshredded bills, bank and insurance statements and receipts you've thrown away -- and in your correspondence. It's also not prudent to give a stranger your address because it could possibly put your personal safety at risk.

The NAIC points out that identity theft remains one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country. "The Federal Trade Commission estimates nearly nine million consumers have their identities stolen each year, disrupting finances and damaging credit histories and reputation," the association says in its statement.

3. Twenty-nine percent incorrectly thought they were required to also share personal phone numbers.

It's not necessary to provide your number, because you can be putting your identity and safety at risk by sharing this information.

4. Nearly 20 percent of people believe the only reason to call the police after an accident is if someone is injured.

This is incorrect. Filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.

Information you should provide after an accident

So, what should you share after a fender-bender?

  • Name
  • Vehicle details, including make, model, year, color, license plate and VIN
  • Insurance company, agent phone number, policy number and policy expiration date
  • Names of witnesses at the scene
  • Information provided by police

Lynne McChristian, a spokesperson for the Florida wing of the Insurance Information Institute, echoes the NAIC's concerns and also suggests motorists limit what information they share following an accident.

"Identity theft is probably the last thing on your mind after a car crash. But putting too much personal information into a stranger's hands can make a bad day last a very long time," she says. "Providing your name and the contact information for your insurer is sufficient. Let your insurance company handle the other details."

Lori Conarton, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute of Michigan, had this to say: "With one in every 20 Americans victimized by identity theft, it is important to be cautious. Personal data, like your driver's license number, should be given to law enforcement officers that are responding to the crash."

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