When it comes to the most sensitive data like social security numbers and addresses, most consumers know to be careful with whom this information is shared. We look for secured websites when exchanging information like credit card numbers and addresses. When doling out our social security number, we provide it to trusted sources like banks and credit card issuers. We’re careful not to announce our address if we don’t need to. All these steps are an important part of safeguarding your identity.

But in the event of a car accident, most no one thinks of protecting their identity when exchanging information with the other driver. In fact, because exchanging your info after an accident is California law, many individuals not only give out their information, but often even the most sensitive data is unnecessarily exchanged.

Unfortunately, even if the thought never occurs, identity thieves are now using car accidents as a ploy to get sensitive information from unsuspecting consumers, later hijacking the individual’s identity. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, thieves are staging car accidents intentionally, and their goal is to get away with your information.

In a July survey, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that many drivers don’t know what kind of information to provide to the other driver in the event of an accident. It’s this naivety that thieves are preying on.

“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,” says NAIC president and Florida’s insurance commissioner.

The organization warns consumers to provide only the bare information needed by state law.

“No one ever needs your Social Security number after an accident,” he says. “If someone asks you for it they could be trying to scam your insurance company by pretending to be hurt or trying to steal your identity.”

In the state of California, it’s mandatory to exchange the following information:

  • Name
  • Current residence address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle identification number
  • Current residence address of registered owner
  • Proof of insurance or other financial responsibility

But as experts point out, much of this information – even though legally required — can lead to a stolen identity. “If someone has your driver’s license, they can use it to make a fake ID or to give to a policeman so that your driving record ends up with a ticket it on it,” warns a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

If you’ve been involved in an accident and suspect that your identity may not be safe with the individual asking for it, you can always wait until a police arrives to voice your concern. Remember, if your intuition is warning you against exchanging information, your hunch can often prove to be right. Wait until police have arrived and discuss your options at the scene of the accident.

About Michael Pines

Michael Pines is a personal injury attorney on a campaign to help end senseless car accidents in San Diego one blog at a time. He has represented injured people for over 20 years in the greater San Diego area and is recognized as a leader in Accident and Injury Prevention. If you have been injured in an accident, call our firm today at 1-858-551-2090 for a FREE consultation.