Having your car stolen would be a terrible thing to experience, but apparently thousands of Americans aren’t thinking about that because they leave their keys in their vehicles — and then the cars get stolen.
Sure, it may seem like a no-brainer to not leave your keys in an unattended vehicle, but people are increasingly making this mistake, according to an analysis from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. From 2012 through 2014, 126,603 vehicles were stolen with the keys left inside. The actual number of key-in-car thefts is likely higher, because if the theft report didn’t include that detail (perhaps an omission of an embarrassed victim), it’s not included in these figures. While auto theft has declined in the last few years, the percentage of those thefts involving keys left in the vehicle has climbed.
In 2012, 5.4% of cars stolen had the keys in them at the time of theft. That share increased to 6% in 2013 and to 6.7% in 2014 — that’s 44,828 vehicle thefts with the keys inside.
Losing your car is bad enough, but think of what else you might lose. People leave lots of stuff in their cars that can be used by identity thieves, like mail and vehicle registration documents. If someone lifts your car because you left it running when you went to grab a cup of coffee, you might have left your purse, briefcase, wallet or phone behind, too. Not only do you have to deal with the stress of having your car stolen (and who knows what your insurance covers), now you have to worry about someone stealing your identity.
Identity theft can manifest in a variety of ways, all of which can harm your well-being, particularly your financial stability. For example, if someone opens up fraudulent credit accounts in your name, your credit standing will suffer the consequences, which could include a slew of things including credit inquiries, high debt levels and missed loan payments. The sooner you spot fraud, the sooner you can get the information removed from your credit history and repair any damage done. The longer fraud goes on, the more likely you are to deal with limited credit access and higher loan interest rates, as a result of fraudulent information. That’s why it’s so important to regularly monitor your credit, which you can do for free on Credit.com.
Of course, it’s also extremely helpful if you avoid leaving your car unattended with the keys inside. That would save you a lot of trouble.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com and was written by Christine DiGangi.