13 Things We Learned from a Car Robbery

Have you ever been punched in the stomach? I hope not, but that’s kind of the feeling you get when you walk back to your car and discover it’s there’s been a car robbery.  🙁


That’s what happened last week when we were in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Now that it’s been a few days, I’d like to share everything I’ve learned from the car robbery in hopes that it might prevent a tragedy like this from striking your life.

Our Trip to California

Last weekend my husband, brother-in-law and I took a beautiful vacation to California. I’d been so excited for the trip and just wanted to feel a “cool breeze in my face” after this ridiculous AZ summer. We visited Universal Studios Hollywood


We got sunburns at Hermosa Beach

hermosa beach

Then we flew up to San Francisco (a first of us all) to explore the city. Being from a small town in Iowa I’m easily nervous in big cities, but I felt oddly safe in SF and even commented that I would “walk around alone and not feel threatened.”


Our trip was ending on a high note Monday morning when we visited Golden Gate Park.

golden gate park san francisco car robbery

After we walked around for a couple hours, we returned to our rental car and here’s what we found:

pictures of cary robbery in san francisco broken glass

Glass everywhere. All our possessions were gone: suitcases, backpacks, three laptops, an iPad, two passports, a social security card, and numerous other items. Uggghhhnsbnreabnresbnfsdx.

We called 911 right away. Everything has felt like a giant blur, but let’s dive into all the things we’ve learned along the way.

1. This can happen ANYWHERE.

Literally. Anywhere. I keep getting asked, “We’re you in a shady neighborhood? Bad part of town?” Nope. A car robbery in a busy, well-maintained park with tons of people and endless cars lining both sides of the road. We met a lady who saw the whole thing happen – a guy punched open the back window, took our backpacks and drove away in a white SUV with no license plate.

2. Just because all your stuff is gone, it doesn’t mean all your stuff is gone.

Someone had called in the crime before we got there, so police came to check it out. When police got there, they took the rest of our stuff to make sure the thieves wouldn’t come back for it. They gave us our remaining stuff back when we returned.

targeting rental car robbery

3. Thieves target rental cars.

Rental cars are easy to spot because they have bar code stickers on the side windows and windshield. Ours also had an out-of-state license plate making us easily identifiable tourists. Tourists usually keep everything in their cars which makes for great stuff to steal.

If you’d like to take the precaution, ask the rental car company the cost to replace the bar code sticker if you peel it off. While it sounds crazy, it’s much less hassle than having your car targeted and personal belongings stolen.

4. Car insurance covers the damage to your car, but home insurance covers your stuff inside of it.

Even though this crime had nothing to do with our physical house, all the stuff inside the car fell under our home owner’s insurance. Take a second to look at your policy and talk with your insurance agent if your coverage is too much or too little!


5. Know what your car insurance does cover and doesn’t cover.

I am really, really, bad at understanding and remembering insurance-related terms. I have to Google the term “deductible” every time insurance is brought up. I’m not proud of that. At the bare minimum, make sure you know if you have rental car insurance included in your policy. If you don’t, you’ll need to buy it from the rental car company.

car robbery personal articles policy
6. Consider getting a Personal Articles Policy on your more expensive belongings.

Sometimes your home owner’s policy has a dollar limit on how much they’ll reimburse you for stolen goods (like jewelry). Also, your home owner’s insurance will go up for awhile if you have to file a claim on it, so it’s better if you don’t have to do that. If Andrew’s laptop wasn’t stolen, we probably wouldn’t have filed.

SO, if you have a valuable, expensive item, consider buying insurance for it. It’s usually relatively inexpensive and it will ensure that you’re reimbursed if something happens to it. Here’s some more info about Personal Article Policies.


7. You might have to change a bunch of passwords.

While that password-rememberer-thingy in Google Chrome is really nice, it’s really not-so-nice when someone else has access to it. The first thing we did was change our bank account passwords, then changed our email passwords and other important accounts. When you change your password, no one can access the account without the new password, even it if was already open on your computer.

8. Some of your stuff might turn up.

When our stuff was stolen, the officer said, “It’s gone. You’re not getting it back.” To our surprise, a few days later we received word from the police officers that our bags were found. They had no electronic equipment in them, but they offered to ship what was left back to us.

9. Even if it does turn up, you might not really want it back.

Being robbed is an extremely violating feeling. TBH, I feel “blessed” that it wasn’t our own car that got broken into, as I don’t want all those memories and experiences associated with our cars. Knowing that the guy who stole our backpacks had his hands on them, went through them, and took things feels so… invasive. Even though our backpacks were found, we’ll most likely donate them to Goodwill.


10. The smallest things will remind you of the car robbery, and that stinks.

Realizing my makeup is gone. Reaching for a new toothbrush. Needing to wear a different pair of shoes. Using a new phone charger. Entering a new email password. The list goes on.

11. Depending where you’re at, a lot of “nothing” might happen (in terms of the law).

The officers told us that in San Francisco, courts are more concerned with higher-profile cases like murders and large robberies than a car robbery to some tourists. They once caught someone in the act of robbing a car and the thief didn’t get more than a slap on the wrist.  😥

12. You can add an extra level of security to your bank account.

Because the robbers had a few types of Andrew’s personal ID, we were worried they might try to withdraw money. We stopped by Wells Fargo and added a verbal password to our account, so anyone who wants access must give the verbal password. They also put a note on his account saying he had IDs stolen.

13. You still have your loved ones, and that’s what matters.

An incident like this gives you a reality check: while it was absolutely horrible, annoying, and a huge hassle, we are all safe and have each other.  🙂


4 thoughts on “13 Things We Learned from a Car Robbery”

  1. Wow, does this bring back memories. San Diego had a massive problem with car theft several years ago. Any where you went, the Zoo, Balboa Park, hiking & biking trails, someone could relate a story. One thing the San Diego police recommended was that you always put all of your belongings into the trunk. A trunk is harder to break into and most thieves will look in the windows and if they see nothing, will move to the next car. I am so sorry you had to go through that. San Francisco is a beautiful city (one of my favorites). I think focusing on the great sights and experiences and throwing away the ugly is a great course of action.

    1. hmrissler@gmail.com

      Oh that is such a good call, Kristi! I think the officer mentioned that, too. We had our backpacks in the back seat and some other stuff in the trunk. He did get into our trunk for one of the backpacks (not sure how, maybe through the back seat?), but a completely empty cabin might make a thief move along.

      Yes, we are really trying to focus on all the positives of the trip. Everything else was so fun and we’re trying to remember that over last stint.

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