Hail Bombs, Flooding and Stolen Vehicles Highlight NICB’s Fall Newscast

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In this edition of NICB News we focus on the devastating floods in Louisiana, a major hailstorm in Colorado and check in at this year’s IASIU conference in Las Vegas.

To view more episodes of NICB News click here.

Fraud Files: Datsun Recovered After 29 Years

For 29 years the car was stashed in a storage facility gathering dust. That was until the storage fees stopped coming in and NICB was asked to investigate. What we discovered was a tale of a stolen vehicle, paid insurance claims and alleged murder.

To view more episodes of Fraud Files click here.

Catalytic Converter Thefts Still Smokin’

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that from 2008 through 2015, there were 25,394 catalytic converter thefts across the nation. In 2008, there were 3,246 thefts of catalytic converters. That number rose to 3,986 at the end of 2015—an increase of 23 percent—according to a review of insurance claims data. These numbers reflect just insured thefts, so the actual number of all catalytic converter thefts is likely to be much higher.

For example, an online search of “catalytic converter thefts” produced news stories describing this activity occurring from Michigan to North Carolina and from California to New York—just this summer alone.

Catalytic Converter Thefts

Insured Thefts of Catalytic Converters Are Up 23% Since 2008

California is the state where the overwhelming majority of catalytic converter thefts occurred during this time frame—8,072. It was followed by Texas (1,705), Illinois (1,605), Ohio (1,439) and Georgia (1,215).

The top five cities where insured thefts were reported were: Chicago (980), Sacramento (850), Los Angeles (550), Atlanta (407) and Indianapolis (353).

The full report is available here and the complete dataset is here.

Why catalytic converter thefts?

Stolen metals have been converted into cash by scrap metal operators who may have been acting within the law, but who may also have unwittingly enabled the proliferation of these kinds of thefts by providing a cash conversion point for purloined materials. As these kinds of thefts intensified–often disabling roadway lighting and airport runway lighting—they captured the attention of lawmakers around the country who, eventually, passed tough, new recycling laws to tighten regulations over metal recyclers.

But unlike base metals and other materials, catalytic converters are unique in that they each contain a small amount of one of three precious metals: platinum, palladium, or rhodium. The presence of those metals is what drives catalytic converter thefts as they can easily bring anywhere from $20 – $240 in recycling value depending on the amount and type of precious metal they contain.

An aggressive thief can easily collect 10-15 or more converters in a single day. They often target sport utility vehicles (SUVs) because their ground clearance is sufficient for the thief to gain access to the converter without having to deploy a jack. And that saves time.

While the replacement of a catalytic converter alone may be relatively inexpensive, many times vehicles are significantly damaged in the theft process making repairs much more costly. NICB recommends that consumers–particularly owners of SUVs—consider taking some preventive measures to deter the theft of their catalytic converters. Etching the catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective deterrent and there are after-market security devices available as well.

100,000+ Insured Vehicles Soaked in Louisiana

The August downpours that dumped more than 30 inches of rain in two days on parts of Louisiana have left as many as 100,000 cars and trucks damaged – and that’s only counting insured vehicles.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), says claims reporting and vehicle recovery efforts that were initially slowed by the large scale flooding are now in full swing and, according to the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, the numbers are much higher than originally expected.

Based on the extensive vehicle losses following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana enacted strong measures to help protect unsuspecting consumers from buying a flood-damaged vehicle. Once an insured vehicle has been determined by the insurer to have been flood damaged it is towed to one of the auction facilities and processed with a new title that indicates it has been water damaged. In Louisiana, during an emergency like the recent flooding, the severity of flood water damage may require a Certificate of Destruction. In that case, the vehicle has to be crushed, or sold to a company that will dismantle it for parts and destroy what remains. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is entered into the state’s records, NICB’s VINCheckSM, and the National Motor Vehicle Title Identification System (NMVTIS) so that the consumers can check a vehicle history before purchasing a used car or truck.

Flooded vehicles that did not have insurance coverage are a major concern as they are frequently cleaned up to hide the damage and then sold to unsuspecting consumers with no indication of a problem. The number of uninsured vehicles that were flood damaged may be even more than the number of insured vehicles since many owners choose to drop their policy’s comprehensive coverage as the vehicle ages.

“It’s buyer beware,” said Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Karen St. Germaine, who warns those in the market for a used car both in state and across the country to do their homework before putting any money on the line.

Tips

  • Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard, and in the wheel well where the spare is stored. Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights.
  • Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that someone’s trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. You can check NICB’s free VINCheck database and the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicle’s site. There are also reliable services that charge a small fee for history reports.
  • Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.

For more tips click here.

NICB and state officials, including the Louisiana State Police, work closely to pursue possible insurance fraud and vehicle theft. If you suspect fraud, call the NICB Hotline at 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422).

When Hail Hits Storm Chasers Arrive

The recent hail storm that damaged thousands of homes and vehicles in the Colorado Springs area has once again attracted an onslaught of “storm chasers” – unscrupulous contractors going door-to-door to try to get victims to let them repair their roofs or other hail damage.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says Colorado was second only to Texas in the number of hail damage insurance claims from 2013 to 2015 (Hail Claims).

NICB warns that the thousands of homeowner damage claims and millions of dollars that are being paid out by their insurance companies have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of contractors claiming to be “licensed” and going door-to-door, without being invited, to solicit business. All too frequently, victims will allow them to go up on their roofs to inspect for damage, without knowing if the company has a valid license or has proper business insurance. Homeowners may find themselves liable if someone is injured on the roof without proper workers compensation or business insurance.

In some cases, the contractors will take the victim’s money, make limited repairs or no repairs at all, and disappear – leaving the property owner victimized a second time.

Working with a coalition of insurance industry, consumer, contractor industry and government groups, NICB is urging consumers to know their rights under legislation passed in the state in 2014 to protect them from high pressure tactics. Those include the right to know the following:

  • Scope of work and materials to be provided.
  • Cost for same based on damages known at the time the contract is entered into.
  • Approximate dates of service.
  • Roofing contractor’s contact information.
  • Identification of contractor’s surety and liability coverage insurer and their contact information.
  • Contractor’s policy regarding cancellation of contract and refund of any deposit including a rescission clause allowing the property owner to rescind the contract for roofing services and obtain a full refund of any deposit within 72 hours after entering the contract.
  • A statement that if the property owner plans to pay for the roofing services through an insurance claim, the contractor cannot pay, waive or rebate the homeowner’s insurance deductible in part or in whole.
  • A statement that the contractor shall hold in trust any payment from the property owner until the contractor has delivered roofing materials to the job site or has performed a majority of the roofing work on the property.
NICB reminds victims to do their homework and resist the pressure from unwelcomed contractors. Remember, if you didn’t request it, reject it! For more information on the Colorado campaign on social media search #NoRoofScams.

Fraud Files: Ellicott City Flooding

In this edition of Fraud Files we focus on the flood that devastated downtown Ellicott City, Maryland. The sudden rainfall and flooding killed two people and destroyed or damaged at least 25 buildings.  The 6 inches of rain between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. was the equivalent of a month of normal rainfall.

Hackers at the Wheel

The mystery device has been a popular topic the past couple of years for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  Kris Van Cleave of CBS reports on how thieves are allegedly using laptops to break into vehicles and drive away in a matter of minutes.

 

America’s 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual Hot Wheels report which identifies the 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States. The report examines vehicle theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and determines the vehicle make, model and model year most reported stolen in 2015.

Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25 2015 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2015.

For 2015, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were (total thefts in parentheses):

1. 1996 Honda Accord                    (52,244)
2. 1998 Honda Civic                        (49,430)
3. 2006 Ford Pickup (Full Size)         (29,396)
4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) (27,771)
5. 2014 Toyota Camry                     (15,466)
6. 2001 Dodge Pickup (Full Size)     (11,212)
7. 2014 Toyota Corolla                    (10,547)
8. 2015 Nissan Altima                     (10,374)
9. 2002 Dodge Caravan                    (9,798)
10. 2008 Chevrolet Impala                (9,225)

See the national report here. Download the 50-state report here.

The following are the top 10 2015 model year vehicles stolen during calendar year 2015:

1. Nissan Altima            (1,104)
2. Chrysler 200             (1,069)
3. Toyota Camry              (923)
4. Toyota Corolla             (776)
5. GMC Sierra                 (670)
6. Dodge Charger           (666)
7. Hyundai Sonata          (632)
8. Chevrolet Malibu         (629)
9. Chevrolet Impala         (594)
10. Chevrolet Cruze        (586)

Download the complete list of 2015’s top 25 most stolen from this spreadsheet.

“While older vehicles still dominate our Hot Wheels most stolen list, the number of late model vehicles with anti-theft protection on the list goes to show that technology isn’t foolproof,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Criminals are doing their best to defeat anti-theft technology through hacking and other means while, at the same time, manufacturers and others are working to improve security.

“Far too often, drivers leave their vehicles unlocked or with the keys inside, making it way too easy for an opportunistic thief. And as we noted recently, many stolen cars are not reported as typical thefts to police because many of today’s thefts are financial crimes involving complicated VIN switching, cloning, straw buyers, illegal exports and other sophisticated criminal methods.”

Vehicle theft is a severe economic hardship for its victims—especially if a vehicle is uninsured. That is why NICB continues to advise all drivers to review our four “Layers of Protection”:

Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys. It’s simple enough, but many thefts occur because owners make it easy for thieves to steal their cars.

Warning Device: Having and using a visible or audible warning device is another item that can ensure that your car remains where you left it.

Immobilizing Device: Generally speaking, if your vehicle can’t be started, it can’t be stolen. “Kill” switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that are extremely effective.

Tracking Device: A tracking device emits a signal to the police or to a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ “telematics,” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

Considering a used vehicle purchase? Check out VINCheck, a free vehicle history service for consumers. Since 2005, NICB has offered this limited service made possible by its participating member companies. Check it out at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.

*This report reflects stolen vehicle data contained in NCIC and present in the “NCIC mirror image” when accessed by NICB on March 5, 2016. NCIC records may contain errors based on inaccurate entries submitted by reporting agencies. Full size pickups include half ton and larger capacity models for all makes. Total thefts is the aggregate for each make/model with model year indicating the most stolen model year of all model years for each listing.

HotWheelsInfographic2015-Final-72216-WIDE

Fraud Files: Caught on Craigslist

One of the main services NICB provides is assisting law enforcement as they investigate insurance fraud and vehicle theft. In this episode of Fraud Files we focus on on a motorcycle that had been reported stolen with one that was being offered for sale on Craigslist.

Car Full of Concrete – Insurance Scam Fail

In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at how one Houston resident allegedly tried to flood a vehicle to collect on the insurance money. Police in Houston say that the owner of a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe deliberately tried to get rid of the SUV during the April flooding in the area.

He allegedly put a piece of concrete on the gas pedal and tied the steering wheel using the driver’s side seat belt, then he drove it into the rising flood waters. NICB assisted in the investigation.