Experts warn against leaving personal information in vehicles - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Experts warn against leaving personal information in vehicles

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Here's a question for you: What do you keep in your car? You might not give it much thought, but what if you're in an accident and your car is towed away? What happens to all your private belongings you left inside?

What the Channel 4 I-Team found is certainly an eye-opener.

Think about this: Do you keep sensitive documents in your car; things that you wouldn't want to get into the wrongs hands? Well, the Channel 4 I-Team uncovered many drivers' personal information right inside damaged cars where the bad guys could easily get ahold of it.

And in one case, Channel 4 learned it should have never happened.

All you need is to pay a couple of bucks and you're in the gate. Customers often go to salvage yards to find and buy used auto parts.

But, Channel 4 was searching for something else: personal information. And, it was far too easy.

Channel 4 found Social Security and driver's license numbers, bank receipts, names, addresses, family photos, phone numbers and even an entire blank checkbook with routing and bank account numbers.

Thousands of cars just sit at salvage yards all over Middle Tennessee, filled with all sorts of personal information. The Motor Vehicle Commission, the state agency that regulates salvage yards, says they are not aware of any state law that requires salvage yards clean out the cars before anyone goes through them.

"It's another way that identity thieves have a great opportunity, but, we don't think about it. Identity theft is so prevalent, in fact, last year, 13 million Americans were victims of identity theft," said Kathleen Calligan with the Middle Tennessee Better Business Bureau.

And, in the case of the salvage yard where Channel 4 found the checkbook, the senior vice president of that company says all the cars should have been cleaned out. After Channel 4 told him what was found, he said they'll go back and clear everything out.

And, don't worry, Channel 4 isn't giving the bad guys any new ideas, Scott Augenbaum with the FBI says cars are already fertile ground for identity thieves.

"Over the past couple of years we've really been focusing a lot on the online identity theft. We really can't forget going back to basics. Too many times we're carrying way too much personal information about ourselves, especially in cars," Augenbaum said.

Channel 4 tried to get in touch with the owner of the empty checkbook that was found to let them know where but could not get in touch with this person.

There is a simple way you can protect yourself and your family. In the event you are in accident, don't keep your sensitive documents in your car. If you have some in there, now would be a good time to clean them out.

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