You walk outside, keys in hand, ready to hop in your car and go. There’s only one problem — your vehicle is nowhere to be found.
If your car has been stolen, you’re not alone — one disappears every 6.5 seconds in the U.S., according to the National Crime Insurance Bureau. Even though it’s a relatively common crime, you still may not know what to do if your car is stolen.
We’re here to help. If you’ve been a victim of vehicle theft, be sure to take these steps right away.
As soon as you realize your car is gone, reach for your phone and dial 911. Reporting a stolen car to the police has to come first, or else you can’t complete any of the subsequent post-theft steps. Namely, your insurance company won’t honor your claim without a police report.
So, call the cops and let them know what has happened. They will want to know as much information about your car as you can give. So, before you call, be sure to have your license plate number and vehicle identification number on hand.
The police will also want to know any distinct features of your car, too. Everything from a custom license plate holder to an exterior dent can help them make an identification.
Don’t forget to mention to the cops if your vehicle has a built-in GPS. The police can use this device to their advantage in vehicle tracking and recovery.
After filing a police report, your next move should be a call to your insurance company.
A comprehensive insurance package will probably protect you in the case of vehicular theft. Even if you don’t have such extensive coverage, call your insurance company anyway. You want them to know you’re not the one driving the car — if the thief causes injury or damage, you don’t want to be held liable.
Once that’s over, your insurance company will launch an investigation into your claim. The insurance adjuster will ask you a series of questions about the incident, and they will record your responses. Even slight differences between what you tell them and what you told police can raise alarm bells.
In short, don’t be offended when the insurance agent presses you. It’s their job to suss out fraudulent claims, so they will ask for lots of details.
Depending on your insurance coverage, your provider might help pay for a rental car while yours is missing. Be sure to ask about this potential credit, too. Otherwise, most insurance companies will pay out your stolen-car claim in 30 days.
You’ve gotten through the two main steps of recovery post-car theft. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “What do I do now?” In most cases, you’ll sit back and wait for word from the police.
Unfortunately, most stolen cars don’t get returned to their rightful owners. Instead, thieves break them down and sell them for parts. Or, they use stolen vehicles to commit crimes, then abandon those wheels in terrible conditions.
So, now you know what to do if your car is stolen. Prepare yourself for the very high possibility that you won’t get your vehicle back. You’ve done all you can — now it’s up to the police and your insurance company to do the same.
In the meantime, check back with our blog for all of your car-related questions and concerns.
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