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Why you're a suspect in your own car theft


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Question: Why would an insurance company ask for my phone records after my car was stolen?  Can they be nosy with my personal information like this just because I made a claim?

Answer:  Your insurer asked for your phone records because it wants to make sure your claim isn’t fraudulent.

It's not unusual for car insurance companies to ask for personal documents when investigating certain types of claims -- such as vandalism, fire and theft -- because these have higher cases of fraud associated with them.

Phone records, banking information, loan agreements, divorce decrees and other items of this nature may be requested by your auto insurance provider as it searches to see if you had motive or would benefit from your car being stolen.

We can understand your concern; no one wants his or her privacy to be invaded or to be looked at as a suspect. You have already been victimized by the person who stole your vehicle; however, insurance companies sometimes feel they need to obtain personal documents to do a thorough investigation and pay out your claim.

When phone records are requested, the special investigations unit will usually want the phone company to go back anywhere from a few days before the theft to a month before and then the day of. They are looking for irregularities or other suspicious events, such as a call right around the time the vehicle was stolen.

Claims adjusters have told us that with some insurance companies it’s standard procedure to request certain personal documents for any vehicle stolen and with others it’s because part of the comprehensive insurance claim has thrown up a red flag. For instance, if you started your policy the week before the theft, or just added comprehensive to the car, then that would be a red flag to the adjuster. (See "The red flags of auto insurance fraud")

To find out the exact reason your phone records are being requested, you will need to ask your insurance provider. Whether you are required to comply varies according to state laws and the terms of your insurance contract.

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Typically an auto insurance policy will say that you are obligated to cooperate with the insurer for auto insurance claims to be paid out. If you don’t hand over certain items, then the claim may be denied for non-cooperation on your part.

Unfortunately, insurance policies don’t list what specific documents they have a right to review, so if you end up in a dispute with your auto insurance company over turning over your phone records and your claim is denied, then the whole matter may end up being argued and settled in court.

You can always discuss your rights with an attorney before agreeing to hand over documents to your insurer. Also, you may want to check with your state’s insurance regulator for consumer advice on your situation.

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