Buying a car is often complicated, time-consuming, and it usually requires copious amounts of personal information. In order for an identity thief to impersonate you and buy a car in your name, they have to know an awful lot about you. Not to mention the fact that even if the thief manages to deceive the dealership and the auto lender, the ruse doesn’t last very long. Most vehicles purchased with false identities are recovered in a matter of days or weeks. So why would an identity thief go to so much trouble? Risking arrest while spending hours buying a car using a false name hardly seems worth the few days or weeks you’ll get to enjoy driving the stolen vehicle.
I guess I’ll never understand how the criminal mind works.
Still, the fact remains that identity thieves falsely purchase cars on a regular basis. While banks, dealerships, and credit bureaus develop processes to prevent this crime, one simple and relatively low-tech option has done wonders to deter identity thieves – requiring a thumbprint on the vehicle purchase contract.
Requiring a thumbprint to buy a car deters thieves, but it’s hardly necessary.
Collecting a thumbprint allows law enforcement to determine the ACTUAL identity of the person who signed the contract after the fact, all but guaranteeing an identity thief will be caught. While this program is currently voluntary in the city of Los Angeles, many car dealerships that have been victims of identity theft are excited to begin the program.
Unfortunately, many potential customers are also deterred by the thumbprint requirement. Some consumers regard a thumb print on a contract as an invasion of privacy. Others are concerned about their “biometric” identity information being stolen. Most consumers, however, find providing a thumbprint to buy a car excessive and perhaps a little insulting. After all, shouldn’t the current system stop theft in the first place?
The answer, refreshingly, is yes.
The vast majority of falsified vehicle purchases occur at dealerships with loose or non-existent identity checks. Conscientious dealerships will pause a transaction if there is any question about names, addresses, social security numbers, and/or dates of birth not “adding up.” Between the credit bureau, the driver’s license, the credit application, and the story from the identity thief, most of the time dealers have more than enough information to stop the false purchase from happening in the first place.
But sales people and sales managers often hide or ignore facts that don’t agree with the records, deciding that the conflicting information is “incorrect” in order to complete the sale. The truth is that most well-managed dealerships have no problems with identity theft because they stop the problem when it walks in the door.
If a dealership asks you for a thumbprint, there’s very little harm in providing it. Still, the fact remains that your personal information ought to be enough. Hopefully someone will put a stop to this practice and ask car dealers to pay a little more attention to the documents they already have.