Consumer Advisory: Don't overshare after an auto accident
You could open yourself up to identity theft.
DENVER (March 8, 2017) – If you’ve been in an auto accident with another driver, often your first concerns are your own safety and that of your passengers, the condition of your vehicle, as well as the safety of the other driver. The last thing on your mind is protecting your identity. However, your identity could be at risk by giving too much of your personal information to a stranger after an auto accident, warns the Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
After an accident, in most cases, you only need to provide the following.
- Your name
- Your auto insurance information, which should include the name and phone number of your insurance provider.
It is not necessary to share personal information such as your address, phone number or driver's license, as it may put your privacy and identity at risk. This holds true for the other driver, although if that person can’t provide their insurance information, then you should get the license plate of their vehicle and ask for their name, phone number and address because you’re going to need some way of contacting that person.
A recent survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC - to which the DOI belongs) suggests that after an accident, many Americans are not really sure what information they should share with the other driver.
- Thirty-eight percent of consumers believed they should share their driver’s license number with the other driver — one in six would even allow the other driver to photograph the license as a convenient way to exchange information.
- What’s the risk? In the hands of criminals, your driver’s license number can be as valuable as cash. Many retailers accept driver’s license information to verify identity over the phone. In fact, a driver’s license number is the most common way to confirm identity after Social Security number and date of birth.
- Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents believed they are required to share personal phone numbers. In fact, sharing your phone number is rarely necessary.
- What’s the risk? Phone numbers are another way to verify personal information. And together with a driver’s license number and an address, a criminal could easily convince someone that they are you.
- Twenty-five percent of consumers surveyed said they would share their home address.
- What’s the risk? Your home address gives identity thieves the physical location of your mail and even your trash, giving criminals the exact location to find your personal information. Plus, a stranger now knows where you live, which could put your personal safety at risk.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission estimates nearly nine million consumers have their identities stolen each year, disrupting finances and damaging credit histories and reputation. Knowing what to share helps keep property and identities safe.
The survey also found consumers were unsure about other auto accident best practices. For example, nearly 20 percent of respondents believe the only reason to call police after an accident is if someone is injured. However, filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.
WreckCheck App for Smartphones
To take some of the guesswork out of a tense situation, the NAIC developed WreckCheck™. This free mobile app for iPhone® and Android® smartphones outlines what to do immediately following an accident and walks users through a step-by-step process to create their own accident report. The app directs them to capture photos and helps document and share only what is necessary to file an insurance claim. Users can even email their completed reports to themselves and their insurance agents.
No smartphone? Download a printable accident checklist and other tips for staying calm, safe and smart on the road.
The Division of Insurance is a consumer resource where insurance experts can answer your auto insurance (and other types of insurance) questions, and provide easy-to-understand information. Contact the Division at 303.894.7490 / 1.800.930.3745 (outside the Denver metro area) / DORA_insurance@state.co.us or visit AskDORA.colorado.gov.
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues. Visit dora.colorado.gov/insurance for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745.
DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 1-800-886-7675.