What to do when car is broken into
After a long day of shopping, you stop in for a quick bite at a restaurant. After paying the check and heading out to the parking lot, something doesn’t look quite right. As you approach your car, you see broken windows and other damage to your car. You’ve just become the victim of a car break-in.
Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Fear. Emotions run the gamut those first few minutes as you assess the damage. Depending on the time of day, the first thing you should do is make sure you’re safe. The thieves may still be lurking about.
Now it’s time to assess the damage. After calling the police, start making a list of everything that was taken and take pictures of any damage to the car. The more information you can provide for a police report, the better. Then it’s time to contact your insurance carrier. Or is it?
Call Your Insurance Agent? Do The Math First
Was the door lock jimmied open, or did they take a brick to a window? If it was an attempted car theft, did they make a mess of the ignition switch? If any part of the car was damaged during the theft, and you added comprehensive insurance to your auto coverage, those damages may be covered.
As far as any personal items, renters or homeowners insurance may cover those losses as long as the items aren’t fixtures of the vehicle. So if your laptop, CD collection, and car stereo were stolen, homeowner’s insurance will cover the laptop and CDs, but not the stereo.
If this is the first time your car has been burglarized, it can be a stressful situation. While your first instinct should be to call the police, you may feel like calling your insurance agent. Do a little research first. Your insurance rates could go up if you file an insurance claim.
Additionally, if your deductible is high enough, you may still be paying for repairs on your own anyway. It’s a double-whammy: You’re out the money for fixes AND your insurance company could raise your rates. Still, make a list of stolen items and car damage for when you file a police report and to tally up the losses.
If you do decide to file a car insurance claim, make sure to file a police report, too. Some auto insurance companies may require this when you file a claim. Don’t move the car, either. It is a live crime scene after all. Unfortunately, many car break-ins are never solved. Still, you don’t want to upset any clues or evidence.
Cover Your Bases
If the thief did get their hands on your cell phone or credit or debit cards, you’ll want to alert your financial institutions. Freezing your accounts will prevent the thieves from trying to use your cards and may even help catch them in the act.
Identity theft is a very real problem, too. Anyone with your driver’s license, credit cards, or other personal information can do some real damage. However, there are companies that can help you get the word out about possible fraud and help keep your identity safe.
Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are three of the major credit bureaus. You won’t need to call all three, either: once they have a report, the information is shared with the other two. Here is more information on placing a fraud alert from the Federal Trade Commission.
Secure Your Car ASAP
Once the financial stuff is taken care of, it’s time to turn your attention to getting the car fixed. If a window was smashed in or door handle broken, get your car repaired as soon as you can. Using clear plastic to cover up the window opening doesn’t exactly scream “secure.”
Tips for Preventing Car Break-Ins
- Leave nothing behind. Even a short trip to the grocery store for milk and bread can give an experienced thief time to do some damage. You’ll already have your purse or wallet with you, but make sure to bring your phone, too.
- Nothing to see here. If you need to make a stop after a day of shopping, put your goodies in the trunk or at least cover your purchases. If a thief can’t be sure what’s in a car, they’ll move on.
- Don’t make it easy. Theft is often a crime of opportunity. Roll your windows up, close the sunroof, and lock your doors. It doesn’t take long for a thief to reach in and snag a laptop from the back seat. If you have an alarm system, make sure it’s engaged.
- Park Smart. Even if it means walking a little bit further, make sure to park your car out in the open. At night, find somewhere well lit to park. The more visible you make your car, the less likely it is to become a target.
If a break-in has made your vehicle inoperable, contact Chappelle’s Towing. We’ll assess the situation and tow your car to a safe place of your choosing. We have locations in Vancouver and Battle Ground, so we’re never too far away. Using AAA? Feel free to ask for Chappelle’s Towing, we’ve been serving Clark County since 1981.