Rising Cost of Parts Fuels Interest of Car Thieves

DES PLAINES, Ill.—If you own a late model car or truck, and you’ve been in a wreck, you may still be shaking your head over the repair bill. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says today’s vehicles are loaded with expensive parts and technology that increase the costs of repairs, even in what may be considered a minor accident.

And those expensive parts will continue to drive car thefts as criminals steal cars and trucks to strip them and sell the parts on the black market.

Thefts of vehicles in the U.S. rose again last year by more than four percent, according to preliminary 2017 crime data from the FBI. Many of the vehicles that are recovered are missing wheels and rims or other key parts, while ones that are never recovered end up in chop shops where they are quickly dismantled and sold piece by piece.

The NICB looked at the cost of replacement parts for the top 10 stolen 2016 models. Average original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. Parts such as bumpers, doors, fenders, hoods and headlights were on the list. Major components like the engine and transmission were not included.

See our video here. Download an infographic here.

The 2016 Toyota Camry, the most stolen 2016 model in our latest “Hot Wheels” report, had 15 commonly replaced components valued at nearly $11,000. That’s not including labor.

The 2016 Nissan Altima had 14 standard components worth more than $14,000, including a single headlamp assembly valued at more than $1,000.

And the 2016 GMC Sierra pickup truck included a $1,100 headlamp and a rear bumper worth more than $1,100. The 20 standard components rang in at more than $21,000.

“For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business,” said NICB Senior Vice President and COO Jim Schweitzer. “On today’s cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That’s why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates…there’s always a market for them.

“We support law enforcement efforts, especially the auto theft task forces that focus on these kinds of theft rings. Shutting down a theft ring and a chop shop can have a major impact on reducing thefts in a community.”

Mississippi Acts to Protect Buyers from Flood of Flooded Vehicles

DES PLAINES, Ill.–The Mississippi Insurance Department and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association have teamed up to protect residents from buying cars damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Following the two storms, officials say thousands of flood-damaged vehicles have made their way from Texas, Louisiana and Florida into Mississippi to be eventually sold to unsuspecting buyers. Many of the cars have been sold to unscrupulous dealers or dismantlers who will clean them up, retitle them and sell them for a quick profit. According to the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner, Mike Chaney, the biggest threat is from cars that were not insured for flood damage.

“While those insured cars may show up in NICB’s VINCheck® database, the ones that didn’t have insurance are likely to be sold by the original owner for a few hundred dollars and then cleaned up and retitled by an unscrupulous dealer who will resell it for a few thousand dollars with no indication that the vehicle suffered any flood damage,” said Chaney. “It’s truly a buyer beware situation.”

In an effort to stop these kinds of sales, the Insurance Department and repair shops that are members of the state’s Collision Repair Association are working together to offer free inspections for potential buyers.

“If you’re thinking about buying a used car, let one of our members check the car to verify that it has not been in a flood,” said John Mosely of Clinton Body Shop and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association. “In addition to checking the hidden areas of the car for signs of damage, we can also run a scan of the car’s computer system to look for any codes that might indicate it had been exposed to water.”

“We applaud this cooperative effort to keep consumers from being scammed,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Far too many vehicles that were flooded were not insured and if they go undetected, they can end up being a financial disaster for the buyer as well as a potential safety hazard.”

 

Beware Harvey Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Flooded cars near the Addicks Reservoir in Houston, TX. (David J. Phillip, File/Associated Press)

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning the nation’s consumers that vehicles flooded by Hurricane Harvey may soon be appearing for sale around the nation.

After a disaster, NICB works with its member companies, law enforcement and auto auction companies to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed and to process them for sale. All of the cars, deemed to be a total loss, will be retitled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts’ companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also entered into the NICB’s VINCheck® and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database.

NICB’s VINCheck allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in the program. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheck is a free public service available at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.

Keeping damaged cars out of the hands of unsuspecting buyers is a major focus of the industry. Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged.

NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Harvey-damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or an unscrupulous dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.

Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.

Consumer Resources

Photos: Harvey Hits Texas Hard

The following images have been sent in by NICB staff members and law enforcement personnel affected by Harvey.

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Images of Hurricane Harvey’s Damage

The following images were sent in by NICB personnel affected by the storms in Texas.

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Hurricane Harvey Victims: Avoid Post-Disaster Scams

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is working with law enforcement agencies, the state departments of insurance and insurance companies to warn victims about post-disaster rebuilding scams.

After a disaster, contractors will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods that have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One common scheme is to pocket the payment and never show up for the job, or never complete a job that was started. Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work that is not up to code in order to pocket more profit. Continue reading

NICB Warns New Orleans Tornado Victims of Scams

As the New Orleans area recovers from the damage caused by a string of powerful tornadoes, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reminds consumers that in the weeks ahead, homeowners in disaster areas should be alert to the potential for fraud by unscrupulous contractors and home repair businesses.

After a disaster, contractors often go door-to-door in affected neighborhoods offering clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most are reputable, but many are not. One common scheme is to pocket a down-payment and then never show up for the job, or never complete a job that was started. Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work that is not up to code in order to increase profit.

NICB has personnel in the affected areas assisting our member insurance companies and a video of the area is available here.

“If you didn’t request it, reject it”

Almost all of these scams are unsolicited—they begin with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. That is why NICB recommends that “if you didn’t request it, reject it.” Before hiring any contractor, call your insurance company. Your insurance company will honor its policy so there is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it. NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

* Get more than one estimate.

* Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.

* Demand references and check them out.

* Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.

* Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.

* Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.

* Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.

* Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.

* Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language.

* Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

Consumer Resources

* For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.

* For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.

* For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck.

Smokies Wildfires Devastate Tennessee Communities

1632399_1280x720The recent wildfires that quickly ripped through Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains threatened the lives of tens of thousands of residents in the Gatlinburg area. The fire, likely a result of arson, has already claimed the lives of 11 people as of Friday morning.

Right now, insurance company representatives are in the field staffing catastrophe centers and working non-stop to assist victims in rebuilding their lives, their homes and their businesses. As hard as these professionals work to quickly handle the thousands of claims that these kinds of events generate, there are always some victims who experience additional pain—not from the fires, but from greedy scam artists and unscrupulous contractors.

After a natural disaster salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket the payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

  • Get more than one estimate
  • Get everything in writing.  Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed
  • Demand references and check them out
  • Ask to see the contractor’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number
  • Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
  • Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them
  • Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
  • Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company

You can download our disaster fraud brochure and other fraud awareness materials here.

If you believe you have been approached by an unscrupulous contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the NICB toll-free at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). You may also text keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or report it online by visiting our Web site at www.nicb.org.

Hurricane Matthew Could Bring a Storm of Fraudsters

As Hurricane Matthew begins to approach Florida and the southeastern part of the United States damage and significant flooding is expected. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning residents of these areas to be on alert for contractor scams after the storm passes.

Becoming a victim of a natural disaster may be impossible to avoid. You can, however, avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors often found lurking in their wake.

After a natural disaster, salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these businesses are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket the payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.

The NICB recommends these tips before you act on a contractor’s offer for services.

  • Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
  • Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay in full.

For more tips you can download our disaster fraud brochure here.

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

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.