When Hail Hits Storm Chasers Arrive

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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.

 

NICB News: Summer 2016

In this edition of NICB News, we look at what can learned from crash tests in the fight against insurance fraud. We also go to San Antonio to report on efforts to avoid contractor fraud following record hail damage. And we provide the latest list of the nation’s Hot Spots for vehicle thefts and take a look at new products aimed at preventing thefts.

Tailgate Thefts Decrease 6% in 2015

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports today that insured tailgate thefts declined 6 percent in 2015 reversing a consecutive five-year escalating theft trend. In 2014, 1,895 claims for tailgate theft were identified in ISO ClaimSearch®, an insurance industry claims database. That number decreased to 1,787 in 2015 for a drop of 6 percent—the first decline in claims since NICB began reviewing them in 2010.

This table shows the annual tailgate theft claim numbers from 2010:

Year          Claims        
 2010  430
 2011  472
 2012  831
 2013  1,090
 2014  1,895
 2015  1,787

This report is based on insurance claims; therefore, the actual number of tailgate theft incidents may be considerably higher since many thefts do not generate an insurance claim.

The top five states for tailgate thefts—2014 and 2015 combined—were: Texas (1,421), California (875), Florida (252), Arizona (204), and Pennsylvania (68). The top five cities for tailgate thefts during these years were: Houston (300), Dallas (276), San Antonio (141), Phoenix (68), and Fresno, Calif. (51).

See the complete report here.

NX_pickup truck_rear_isoReplacing a tailgate is expensive. A new one from the manufacturer of a popular 2015 pickup truck is about $1,300 with even higher costs for some variants. That helps explain why there is a thriving underground market for vehicle parts, a market fed with parts removed from stolen vehicles.

The underground market is driven by demand for items that can be acquired at a fraction of their legitimate cost. Tailgates are no exception. While many of these stolen tailgates end up on similar vehicles, others are simply sold for scrap, which contributes to the nationwide problem of metal theft.

Tailgate thefts can occur anywhere; several episodes of multiple thefts have occurred in single locations, such as auto dealers’ lots and shopping malls. Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.

NICB Urges Illinois Governor to Sign Measure Aimed at Towing Fraud

vintage-tow-wrecker-pick-up-truck_G1Q8XPUO_LThe National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) urges Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to sign into law Senate Bill 2261 to help protect consumers from the rampant towing fraud that has long plagued the state.

The bill, which has passed both the House and Senate, was supported by NICB, the Illinois Insurance Association and others.

If signed by the Governor, it would create a Statewide Relocation Towing Licensure Commission — a task force that will work over the next year to fully examine the towing laws in the state and report back to the legislature. The commission would have representation from the auto insurance industry in addition to state lawmakers, the towing industry and law enforcement.

In addition SB 2261:

  • Makes it a class 4 felony for a tower to illegally solicit business at an accident scene; and
  • Allows a vehicle owner or the owner’s insurer to file suit against a tower that violates the accident scene solicitation section, including recovery of all attorney fees and court costs.

“This is a major step forward as we attempt to put limitations on the rogue tow operators that have plagued many areas of the state, especially the Chicago area,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Motorists should not be subject to predatory towing practices that result in outrageous charges and tactics, such as holding cars hostage in salvage yards until the owner or their insurance company pay what amounts to a ransom to get the vehicle returned.”

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

Hot Spots in the Media

Here’s a list of media outlets who have picked up on our annual Hot Spots report:

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NICB’s 2015 Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report

 

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Modesto Tops San Francisco With Worst Vehicle-Theft Rate in U.S.

 

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Car thieves love L.A.: California leads the nation (again) in auto thefts

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Top 100 Metro Areas for Vehicle Theft: NICB’s ‘Hot Spots’

 

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Bakersfield ranks No. 3 in nation for car thefts per capita

 

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California
owns eight of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft