How can you steal my identity from my vehicle registration?

Recently, my wife and I attended a meeting to organize a neighborhood watch committee in our area. A representative from the local PD was present to explain how it works, local crime history, etc, and to offer general security tips. One of her points of advice was to not leave your vehicle registration in the car, because a criminal could use the information on it to steal your identity. My first thought was “bullshit”, so I asked her to clarify how they could steal my identity. She stammered out a response along the lines of “Well, all your identifying information is on there. They could use that to apply for credit or get a social security card in your name”. I sensed that she was scrambling for an answer, so I didn’t press on.

When I got home, I pulled my registration out and reviewed the info on there. Aside from the typical info on my vehicle (make, model, year and VIN), the only other personal info on there was my name and address –which is plastered on every piece of junk mail I receive, and even listed in the phone book and on personal search websites. So what gives? What can someone really do with my name and address? What could they do with my vehicle details? I doubt they could even get the car re-titled or registered in someone else’s name without a reasonable amount of proof that they own the car -which I have. I want to chalk this up to fear mongering by a misinformed public official, but really what’s the straight dope on this?

If there indeed ways to steal identities with this type of info, please exercise caution in your replies so we don’t violate any SDMB terms of use.

They can steal your identity with just your name, even. But every extra piece of info (especially your SSN and DOB) makes it easier.

Name and address are so easy to get (as you said) I can’t see making special precautions to guard your registration, unless yours has some other info. And from what I see the OP’s does not.

If you are away from home and they see you exit the car, and want to see more of you, they can get your address off of the registration. No need to follow you home. This would mostly be a problem for women.

If they want your car they will know where to go get it.

Here we are required to have registration in the vehicle. I would suggest a photocopy with the address blocked out.

Just a WAG. Maybe it has something to do with your state records laws. Like, with the name and vehicle registration number, you can contact the DMV and get other stuff. Possibly records of citations or court appearances where there is more information to be had. I’m not sure what could be got from there – maybe your auto insure carrier and policy number? Or if you paid some DMV bill by check or cc, maybe even a copy of the bill/receipt with account numbers on it.

Agree with the OP, nothing there a phone book wouldn’t give.

Some states require registration be kept in the car.

Which might not satisfy the legal requirement, but IANAL.

They don’t have to steal your whole identity.
I think in think the current term “identity theft” includes the older terms of forgery and name fraud, where just one paper is tampered with.
A thief stealing your car could use the papers inside to convince someone they are the owner, perhaps not to steal but to use as the accident information the give the other driver on a fender bender.
They can also get tickets for liability damage in your name by claiming you loaned them the car.

They actually steal your car’s identity, but the results can be as bad. With your car’s registration, they can basically “forge” another car. A stolen car of the same make, model, color, trim package as yours instantly has registration and other bonafides. And if the mope with the stolen car gets in an auto acccident, he hands the nice officer your registration. You end up with traffic and other charges on your record, and Hot Rod Slim is scot free.

never mind

So, does the mope steal a car and then look for an identical one to steal the registration from, or vice versa? Sounds a bit awkward either way.

How does the mope account for the discrepancies between the registration and his driver’s license?

I think the scam involves an auto theft ring that firs steals the car and then finds its twin. Not being a car thief myself, I’ve left out several important details. But I’ve seen accounts of this in the local news in recent years.

This site

gives some details. According to them, and perhaps I misremembered, the only beneficiary is the seller of the stolen car; the buyer doesn’t get much in the way of protection.

Edited to add: they’re talking about acquiring a clean VIN, registration, etc. Sometimes the easiest way is to rifle someone’s glove compartment.

Most criminals are opportunistic and looking for the easy score. I think most of these examples require a lot of work on the perpetrator’s part to actually get any benefit from stealing my name or VIN. It would be a hell of a lot easier and probably more rewarding to go dumpster diving for credit card receipts. I guess the possibility of theft exists but the risk seems fairly low, and I’d probably get more lip from the PD about not having my registration if I was ever pulled over.

My coworker’s husband is adamant that they tear off the address labels from all their magazines before they put them out on the curb for recycling. He absolutely freaked out one time when she missed a few. The only personal info you can get from an address label is name and address. Anyone standing out by their garbage going through their recycling for that info would only have to turn around and look at the house itself, where the address is clearly marked, and a sign on their door reads “Welcome to the Smith Home”. Or they could just check the phone book.

OK. You steal a car. Cop pulls you over. The first thing he does is run the tags. You hand him the bogus registration, which matches neither the license tags on the car, nor the driver’s license in your wallet. He gets suspicious, and checks the VIN, which does not match the bogus registration either. How is he not going to think the car is stolen?