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- Immediately
- Insurance - Next Steps
- No Insurance - Next Steps
- Additional Information

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Immediately

  1. Be safe, be smart
  2. Get to a safe place.
  3. WHN TIP: Dude - Where's My Car?

    If you parked your car in a parking lot or on the street, could it have been towed? Look around for any signs you may have overlooked specifying certain restrictions (time, handicapped parking only, etc.).

  4. Call the police.
  5. They may ask you for several things including:
    • Your name
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Your license plate number.
    • WHN TIP: Expert Tip: License Plate Number

      Policemen say your license plate number is one of the most important items to know. It's harder to find a 'blue Honda civic' than a blue Honda civic license plate number WHN 123.

    • The car's VIN (vehicle identification number)
    • The year of the car
    • The make of the car
    • The model of the car
    • The color of the car
    • Any unique features on your car (location of dents, cracks, bumper stickers, etc.). This will help distinguish your car from all the others.
    • Where did you last see your car?
    • What happened? When did it happen? Describe the event as briefly as possible and tell the dispatcher if the crime is in progress.


  6. When the officer arrives, he or she may ask you similar questions such as:
    • Where did they go and which way? Did you recognize the person? Describe the suspect or other vehicle, if there is one.
    • WHN TIP:

      It may be a difficult time to answer questions. However, if you did see a person in or around your home, correctly stating details like age, height, weight, hair color, clothing, etc., could help speed up the process.

    • Do you have a car navigation or security system? They may be able to track your car if it has a Global Positioning System (GPS). Also, notify the security system company.
    • Are any signs of forced entry (broken glass, parts or tools left behind)?
    • Is there an additional co-owner of the car or does another person have a key to your car?
    • Have contacted the impound lot or record services to see if it was towed?
    • Have kept up on insurance and/or car loan payments?
  7. Describe of what was in/on your car. (Be sure to think of your trunk, glove compartment, anywhere else you kept items.)

    Go here for a printable form for you to fill out and give to the police. Keep a copy for yourself — it may help you in the insurance claim process or in the replacement process of the stolen items.

  8. Note the name of the police officer that takes your report, your case number and the investigator (if any) assigned to it.
    • Officer name, badge number
    • Case #
    • Keep this with you at all times. Make a copy of the case number for home and work, in case you need to reference it.
    • Ask how you can get a copy of the police report (you may need it for insurance purposes).
    • Phone number for police report at a later time:
  9. You will be required to sign an affidavit, which is a statement confirming that you indeed believe your car to be stolen.
  10. The license plate and VIN number for your car will be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, along with any important descriptive information. This is a national system that police officers use to look up license plate numbers for law enforcement purposes.

WHN TIP: My Wallet!

If your wallet/purse was in the car; here are suggestions for handling purse/wallet theft.



Have Insurance? Next Steps

  1. Insured for auto theft? Call your car insurance agent. (If you’re not sure, call your agent to discuss your coverage.)
  2. Have your car insurance policy number ready.
  3. Have the police case number ready.
  4. Explain what happened (know that this may increase your rates).
  5. Go through the list of items that were also in your car at the time — this is the same list you gave the police — some may be covered, depending on your coverage and riders.
  6. If your policy includes coverage to allow you to rent a car if your car is stolen, coordinate the rental car situation with your agent. If your policy does not cover this, consider another mode of transportation until your car has been recovered or you get a new car.

    WHN TIP: Public Transit

    If you're near public transit, call their customer service line. Operators are trained to help with questions and concerns for riders.

  7. Ask your agent about outcomes and the timing of the car theft:
    • What is covered if the car is recovered and damaged?
    • What is the timeline for compensation?
    • What is covered if the car is never recovered?
    • How will this affect your insurance rates? When will this change kick in?
  8. Ask your agent about outcomes and the timing of the stolen contents:
    • What is covered if the contents are recovered but are worse for wear?
    • What is covered if the contents are never recovered?
    • Are there items that were stolen that aren’t covered under the insurance policy? Check your homeowner’s policy and talk to your place of employment for work items to learn if there is other coverage.
    • How will this affect your insurance rates? When will this change kick in?

    WHN TIP: Timelines

    While it varies by provider, the insurance company will usually begin the claim process approximately 7–15 days after the theft.

  9. A few days after the theft, contact the police department to check on the status of your case. Be sure to have your case number ready.
    • Ask to speak with the detective who is assigned to your case.
    • Introduce yourself, state your case number and when the theft took place.
    • Ask the detective about the status of your case. Is it open or closed?
    • If your case is open, ask if there are any possible suspects. Ask about the suspect's physical details or vehicle info.
    • Ask if there have been any more car thefts in your neighborhood.
    • Also ask if there is anything else that you can provide that could help the investigation.
    • Request a copy of the official police report for your records, if you haven't already done so.
    • Remember, the police will do their best to follow up on the theft. However, it may not be possible to track down your stolen car or its contents. Be patient.

Car Recovered

  1. If your car is recovered, the police will contact you. They may keep the car for a few days to test for prints or look for additional clues.
  2. WHN TIP: I Found It!

    If you recover your car on your own, you must notify the police and tell them you have recovered your car otherwise it will remain listed as a stolen vehicle.

  3. You will need to go to the police station and identify your car.

    WHN TIP: Another State

    If your car is found in another state, you will be required to travel to your recovered car's location in order to get your car back. If you need to make special arrangements, contact the police station holding your car.

    • You will need to bring along a photo ID in order to get your car back. You might also need your insurance and car registration information as well. Ask the police if you need to bring anything else along for proof of ownership.
    • If your wallet or purse was stolen, ask the officer if it — and anything else — was found in the car. If it wasn’t in the vehicle, ask what alternative identification you can use.
  4. Contact your insurance agent with the news.
  5. Similar to a car accident, you will have to get your car assessed for damage. Either drive or tow it to a garage both you and your insurance agent agree on, or go to a garage recommended by your insurance agent.

Contents Recovered

  1. If some or all of your contents are recovered, the police will contact you. You will need to go to the police station and identify your belongings.
    • Again, you will need your ID to get your contents back. If your wallet or purse was stolen, ask the officer what alternative identification you can use.
  2. Contact your insurance agent with the news.
  3. If your items are damaged, they must be assessed by your insurance company before you can repair them.

WHN TIP: How Much?

Don't get your car or any contents repaired until you know how much money you are getting from the insurance agency.

Car Not Recovered

  1. After two weeks, be sure your agent is processing paperwork so you can begin looking for a new car.
  2. The amount of money you get from your insurance agency depends on your coverage.
  3. For an estimate of your car’s worth (to compare to your agent’s figure), consult the Kelley Blue Book.
    • The Kelley Blue Book is a consumer's report of used-car values on more than 10,000 models of vehicles. The book is available at auto supply stores, bookstores, and online.

Contents Not Recovered

  1. After two weeks, be sure your agent is processing the paperwork so you can begin replacing items that are insured.
  2. The amount of money you get from your insurance agency depends on your coverage.

No Insurance? Next Steps

  1. Keep the police case number with you at all times.
  2. Consider another mode of transportation until your car has been recovered or you get a new car.
  3. WHN TIP: Public Transit

    If public transit is in your area, call their customer service line. Operators are trained to answer questions of first-time riders.

  4. A few days after the theft, contact the police department to check on the status of your case. Be sure to have your case number ready.
    • Ask to speak with the detective who is assigned to your case.
    • Introduce yourself, state your case number and when the theft took place.
    • Ask the detective about the status of your case. Is it open or closed?
    • If your case is open, ask if there are any possible suspects. Ask about the suspect's physical details or vehicle info.
    • Ask if there have been any more car thefts in your neighborhood.
    • Also ask if there is anything else that you can provide that could help the investigation.
    • Request a copy of the official police report for your records, if you haven't already done so.
    • Remember, the police will do their best to follow up on the theft. However, it may not be possible to track down your stolen car or goods. Be patient.

Car Recovered

  1. The police will contact you; they may keep the car for a few days to test for prints or look for additional clues.
  2. WHN TIP: I Found It!

    If you recover your car, notify the police and tell them you have your car - otherwise it remains listed as a stolen vehicle.

  3. You will need to go to the police station and identify your car.

    WHN TIP: How Far?

    If your car is found in another state, you have to travel to bring the car back. If you need to make special arrangements, contact the police station holding your car.

    • You will need your ID to get the car back. Bring along car registration information as well.
    • If your wallet or purse was stolen, ask if it was in the car. If it wasn’t, ask about alternative identification you can use.
  4. Even if your car looks okay, drive or tow it to your garage for a check-up and/or repair estimate.
  5. If damage is extensive, decide whether repairs are worth it. Consult the Kelley Blue Book for an estimate of your car’s pre-crash value.
    • The Kelley Blue Book is a consumer's report of used-car values on more than 10,000 models of vehicles. The book is available at auto supply stores, bookstores, and online.
  6. Similar to a car accident, get it assessed for damage. Either drive or tow it to a garage(s) of your choice and get bids for repairs needed.

Contents Recovered

  1. The police will contact you. You will need to go to the police station and identify your belongings.
    • You will need ID to get the contents back. If they were stolen, ask the officer what alternative identification you can use.

Car Not Recovered

  1. After the first contact, re-contact the police and ask them to keep you informed of any new developments. They will probably give you a realistic outlook for the recovery of your car.
  2. After several days, begin looking for a new vehicle.
  3. Begin replacing contents.
  4. Contact the police and ask them to keep you informed of any new developments.

Additional Information

Remember ...

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. These tips are from first responders, lawyers, insurance agents and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal decisions.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.


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