NICB: Where Storms Hit Fraud Often Follows

For Unsolicited Repairs, If You Didn’t Request It — Reject It

Disaster-Brochure-CoverDES PLAINES, Ill., April 16, 2014 — As the traditional storm season approaches, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and its nearly 1,100 member insurance companies are warning consumers to ensure that they have a disaster plan. By taking precautionary steps to ensure their personal safety, as well as to protect their property, people can greatly reduce the risk of injury. Having food and water sufficient for your family’s needs for at least three days is recommended, as is having a battery-powered or hand-crank weather radio.

While personal survival from a storm or other natural disaster is paramount, consideration must also be given to surviving one financially if your home is damaged or destroyed, and that is most effectively provided through insurance. However, many times disaster victims fall prey to predatory and fraudulent repair scams perpetrated by individuals looking for a fast buck, usually at a victim’s expense.

Read the full press release.

Watch the video.

Florida’s No-Fault Reform: Trending in the Right Direction

After Leading the Nation with Suspicious PIP Claims, Florida Sees a Decline

Florida PIP ReformThe National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has released a new report revealing a decline in Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) questionable claims (QCs). In 2013, Florida PIP QCs declined by 7.6 percent from 2012. Meanwhile, for the period 2010 through 2013, Florida staged accident QCs decreased by 61.82 percent.

Tighter legislation, enhanced public awareness and a coordinated law enforcement response appear to be having the intended effect on PIP fraud in Florida.

We are encouraged by the decline in questionable claims that we’ve seen recently, but by no means are we declaring victory in Florida,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Florida remains a hotbed for fraudulent activity, and we can’t afford to ease up for a moment in our fight against those who would abuse the system and burden Florida consumers.”

Visit the NICB Newsroom to read the full press release.

All Aboard: The Significance of a HIN

It’s January. Right now, most of the country is hunkered down by the snow and blistering cold. For most of us in the colder regions of the country, warm weather may seem like the distant future. But regardless of where you reside, if you enjoy outdoor activities on the water, there’s something you need to keep in mind.

BoatShow1Recently, I joined colleagues from the NICB’s Manufacturers Information Group at the Boat, Sports & RV Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The annual event is billed as a one-stop marketplace and provides outdoor enthusiasts and dreamers alike an opportunity to see the latest and greatest offerings. Prices run the gamut from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand, or over $1 million. Other watercrafts such as kayaks or Jet Skis offer an even lower price point.

But why is the NICB concerned about boats and other watercrafts, you might ask? Because, like many other investments and property, they may be targets for thieves and fraudulent schemes.

While the typical visitor may have been touring the boats in search of deals and features, we toured them in search of HINs (Hull Identification Numbers). Similar to automobiles, boats also have identification numbers placed on them by their manufacturers. These HINs contain characters and numbers, information that assists law enforcement in recovering stolen boats. Since August of 1972, every marine vessel that is made or imported for sale in the U.S. is required to have a HIN. We wanted to see where and how these HINs were placed, not for aesthetic reasons, but rather to assess how easily thieves might possibly remove or alter them.

A 2013 report by the NICB indicated that there were 5,780 watercraft thefts reported in 2012. That equates to about 16 thefts per day with the spring and summer months having the most active periods for thefts. So what, if anything, can be done to help guard against theft and fraud schemes?

The NICB and NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) have partnered to create a boat database to enhance the efforts of the United States Coast Guard, law enforcement and NICB personnel to identify thefts and related fraudulent schemes.
Currently, the database contains over 661,000 boat records received directly from the boat manufacturers. Data collected include: year of manufacture; hull identification number (HIN); brand; model; length overall; hull material; propulsion type; fuel type; and vessel type. For investigative assistance, NICB Member Companies and law enforcement partners are encouraged to contact the NICB’s Investigative Assistance Group at 1-800-447-6282 x7002 or 847-544-7002.

For consumers, whether you spend $1,000 or several hundred thousand for your boat, it’s more than just a recreational craft. It’s an investment. Like any other investment, you need to protect it from theft. For more information on how to protect your boat, the NICB offers these helpful tips and video.

NICB Employees Giving Back to the Community

PantryDonationCFood pantries are vital resources for countless families and individuals who have been impacted by a challenging economy or struggle with poverty. A special thank you is extended to NICB employees whose generous donations of canned goods and other food items help to combat hunger.

Numerous NICB employees volunteer their time and actively support many charitable organizations throughout the year. It’s no wonder then that some HQ employees became involved with the local Self Help Closet and Food Pantry here in Des Plaines which reportedly serves on average about 1,000 persons per month.

The food box to help the Des Plaines Self-Help Closet and Pantry first showed up in the NICB lunchroom around 2009. It was around the time the economy wasn’t fairing well, and the food pantry donations were slowing down. We wanted to help the community we were fortunate to be working in by giving back! It is gratifying to see our donations put to good use immediately.” Anna K., NICB senior tactical analyst

I’m very happy to bring the food items to the pantry on behalf of NICB, as it gives me the feeling of “pitching” in as a team to assist those who are less fortunate.” Donna W.,NICB  training associate

Thank you Anna, Donna, and all who have provided their support over the years.

Omaha Man Reunited with Motorcycle Stolen 46 Years Ago

MotorcyclePostThousands of motorcycles are stolen in the U.S. each year, and fewer than 40 percent are ever recovered. So when a motorcycle has been missing for 46 years, well the chances of it ever showing up again are slim.

But don’t tell that to Don Devault. His 1953 Triumph motorcycle was returned to him this week in Omaha, Nebraska – the same place it was stolen in 1967, when Don was 27. The recovery was one of the more interesting challenges for Lou Koven, a special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. He works with Customs and Border Patrol’s Sami Nasri and the California Highway Patrol’s Mike Maleta at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They checked on the bike when it was about to be loaded on a ship to Japan. The VIN number showed up in NICB’s historical database of stolen vehicles and Koven tracked it down to a police report from Omaha. That led to Devault — now 73 — still riding motorcycles and never expecting to see that bike again.

Local trucking company owner Marty McMullen took care of getting the bike back to Don, hiring a driver to pick it up in California and bring it home. Special Agent Koven was on hand to see it arrive and meet the man who didn’t believe him when he first called to tell him his motorcycle had been recovered.

When it was stolen, Devault valued it at $300. It’s now worth an estimated $9,000 and Devault plans to hold on to it this time.

For a complete report, watch this video.

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.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote $350 billion in insurance premiums in 2012, or more than 78 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($160 billion) of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.

Like This. Rethinking Social Networks and Fraud Awareness in the Era of Generation Y.

SocialMediaAs an Investigative Assistant at NICB, I provide assistance to NICB Agents, member companies, and our law enforcement partners in the fight against insurance fraud. Each call that I receive can be vastly different. It’s a stark reminder that new types of fraudulent schemes are emerging on a daily basis. Armed with this new knowledge, it has caused me to reconsider how I use social media.

When I first joined Facebook, it seemed like an exclusive club that was only open to those with a college email address. Its exclusiveness made it feel a lot safer than its counterpart MySpace, which was open to anyone. However, after a while Facebook dropped its college-only status and opened itself up to anyone with a computer. With the openness of social networks such as Facebook, the current generation has to be careful of what information it shares with the social media world.

There seems to be a common misconception among my generation, Generation Y/Millenials; it’s the idea that we are in control of who sees our information. We create a password, handpick a mere 865 friends, and set our profiles to “private.” Yet we are still at risk of having our information shared with people we don’t know. Today, all someone needs to do is take a screenshot of that embarrassing picture or any other private moment that you’ve posted on Facebook and send it to five of their friends. Poof! That security wall that you thought you put up has suddenly come tumbling down.

Unlike previous generations, we seem to be more willing to share our daily life with people we barely know, thereby putting ourselves at risk for all types of danger, including identity theft and other fraud schemes. Over sharing is a serious problem. Aside from the host of potentially unflattering pictures of inappropriate behavior that we may post, we’ve essentially given up control of our personal information to a website in hopes of showing other people just how great we are doing. Well. How great are we actually doing?

As a user, I can’t pretend that I don’t appreciate the benefits that social platforms like Facebook provides me to keep in touch with friends. I do love those wedding pictures from my grammar school classmates. Like many other users, I also wonder what these people have been up to since we last saw each other, often so many years ago.

I have also found many new organizations to support that I otherwise would not have known about due to the location or just plain lack of information. Like many of my contemporaries, I usually receive my world news by my custom select newsfeed. Newspapers? Not so much. And yes, I’m more likely to use the search engine on my phone rather than grab a chunky phone book. Do they even print those anymore?

But I still have to wonder, at what price does this benefit come? Posting pictures of yourself engaging in inappropriate behavior can do more harm than just make you look bad to a potential employer. Tagging yourself in a certain location can make you more likely to have someone follow you. Putting on Facebook that you are going on vacation makes it easier for a break in to happen. All of these reasons are the downside of this new freedom my generation has created for itself. We seem to be quick to put out information to let people know everything about ourselves that we are willing to give up control of our private information.

So, is there a plus side to sharing? It has become a good ally in helping to combat insurance fraud. Ten years ago, law enforcement may have had to search for weeks to find information on a stolen car or for investigators at an insurance company to find evidence regarding a suspicious claim. Now individuals seem to willingly put it all out there on the social networks for the whole world to see. With the click of a mouse, friends, strangers, and law enforcement can get pictures, advertisements, and even a confession of car thefts, break-ins and other illegal activities.

It will be interesting to see what the future of social media holds for not just Generation Y, but for all of us. As for me, I’m rethinking my next status update. LOL.

Are More Federal Prosecutions of Medical Fraud on the Horizon?

In his address to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates on August 12, United States Attorney General Eric Holder caused quite a stir when he announced more restrictive guidelines for federal drug prosecutions. Specifically, he has directed that “certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders who have no ties to large scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”

While some people have complained that Holder was “retreating” on the war on drugs, Holder also recognized the burden that state criminal cases have placed on the federal system—a system never intended to address state crimes the way it has with the advent of the war on drugs—a war that was reinvigorated in the 1980s.

Law enforcement officers at the state and local level were bringing low-level drug cases to federal prosecutors solely because of the severity of the sentencing possibilities. That, coupled with the expansion of drug task forces around the country, increased federal prosecutors’ caseloads and prison populations. Currently, almost half of the 219,000 federal prisoners are incarcerated for drug violations.

So how does this impact insurance fraud?

When Holder said later in his speech, “It’s imperative that we maximize our resources by focusing on protecting national security; combating violent crime; fighting against financial fraud; and safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our society,” he was recognizing that financial fraud is a serious and growing crime that deserves continued federal attention.

Indeed, the Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership was formed last year by AG Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to unite public-private entities in the fight against healthcare fraud. NICB CEO Joe Wehrle sits on the Executive Committee along with representatives from the health insurance industry, federal agencies, state regulatory bodies and anti-fraud associations.

There is no question that it has been difficult, at times, to get a prosecutor to bring a case against an insurance fraudster. Even the most air-tight insurance fraud investigative package is useless if a prosecutor declines to advance it. Many times those declinations are based on local guidelines or resource limitations. AG Holder’s remarks provide all of us in the insurance fraud fighting community hope that going forward, more serious cases of medical insurance fraud—the most damaging and egregious ones—will be prosecuted at the federal level.

Only time will tell, but one thing is certain—the environment for prosecuting insurance fraud is becoming more welcoming than it has been for some time. And that’s a good thing.

NICB’s Hot Wheels: Popular 10 Most Stolen Vehicles List Gets a Makeover

Check out the latest NICB Hot Wheels report. The new data-rich version offers more detailed data and a new list of 2012’s most stolen 2012 Models.

For 2012, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were (total thefts in parentheses):

1. Honda Accord (58,596)
2. Honda Civic (47,037)
3. Ford Pickup (Full Size) (26,770)
4. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) (23,745)
5. Toyota Camry (16,251)
6. Dodge Caravan (11,799)
7. Dodge Pickup (Full Size) (11,755)
8. Acura Integra (9,555)
9. Nissan Altima (9,169)
10. Nissan Maxima (6,947)

The new feature in Hot Wheels this year is the addition of a list of the top 25 model year 2012 vehicles that were most stolen in calendar year 2012. The top 10 on this list are:

1. Nissan Altima (921)
2. Chevrolet Impala (778)
3. Chevrolet Malibu (727)
4. Toyota Camry (665)
5. Ford Fusion (655)
6. Ford Pickup Full Size (595)
7. Ford Focus (523)
8. Chrysler 200 (449)
9. Dodge Charger (416)
10. Dodge Avenger (412)

Watch the accompanying video for the report. Download the press release and learn more about the report by visiting us online at www.nicb.org.

NICB’s “Hot Wheels” vs. the Highway Loss Data Institute’s “Theft Claims Rate” Reports

Each year the NICB publishes a report that identifies the 10 most stolen vehicles in each state and the nation. Formally known as “Hot Wheels,” NICB’s report examines all vehicle theft reports taken by law enforcement around the nation and entered into the FBI-managed, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

In preparation for Hot Wheels, an NICB analyst will collect all the valid theft reports from NCIC for a given year. The analyst then distills a list of the most stolen vehicles in the nation. It’s a simple equation: a vehicle theft report in NCIC gets counted as a vehicle theft by NICB.

Whether or not a stolen vehicle is insured makes no difference in the statistical tally produced by NICB. Indeed, most vehicles on the road today are not covered for theft (as the vehicle ages and decreases in value, many drivers choose to drop their theft coverage). So any analysis of stolen vehicles that uses only insurance claims as a dataset will produce a vastly different report.

Our good friends at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have been developing their own list over the past several years and the recent headlines generated by their report caused some confusion. The HLDI news release carried the headline, “Ford F-250 has highest theft rate of any 2010-12 vehicle” and then went on to say, “The Ford F-250 has replaced the Cadillac Escalade as the favorite target of thieves, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) reports. New anti-theft technology on the Escalade, as well as its waning popularity, are two likely reasons the luxury SUV has fallen from first to sixth place in the ranking of vehicles with the highest rates of insurance claims for theft.”

Herein lies the confusion. Many of the media headlines said something like, “Ford Pickup Truck Tops Among Thieves,” which is true only if you’re looking at insured vehicle theft claims for 2010-2012 models year…not necessarily actual thefts of the vehicles…and not thefts of uninsured vehicles.

To make it on the NICB most stolen vehicle list, a vehicle has to be stolen—the entire vehicle. To be included in HLDI’s analysis, an insurance theft claim must be filed, but the theft item could be a mirror from a Ford F-250 and nothing more. Get the picture?

So context is important.

As for our Hot Wheels report for 2012, it is being prepared and should be released in the next few weeks.

Smooth Sailing for NICB’s New Vessel Information Database

Recent statistics reveal that each month more than 500 vessels are stolen in the United States costing boat owners and their insurers millions of dollars annually. In turn, boat thieves often sell these stolen vessels to unsuspecting consumers for a large profit. But a newly-created database of vessel hull identification numbers (HIN) will enhance the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), law enforcement personnel and the NICB to prevent, detect and report marine thefts and insurance fraud.

Before the creation of the database, law enforcement had to contact the particular boat manufacturer to verify watercraft information. Now, this new tool will streamline the access that law enforcement officials and insurers have to important identification information. The database will also serve the USCG in their work to accurately report and record on-water accidents. Boaters themselves will benefit from this improved system through speedier vessel identification and recovery in cases of theft.
The data that NICB is collecting from boat manufacturers includes:

  • Hull identification number (HIN)
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Year of manufacture
  • Overall length
  • Hull material
  • Propulsion type
  • Fuel type
  • Vessel type

Some records may also contain component serial numbers, which can further assist law enforcement and the NICB with vessel identification. NICB is also collecting hidden HIN numbers.

The database, a joint effort between NICB and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), went into production in August 2012, with Brunswick Boat Group, Grady White and Forever Resorts as beta testers. They also helped define the best information for inclusion in the database. NICB will serve as the repository for this information and will maintain the data on a proprietary basis at no cost to NMMA or its members.

In addition to the manufacturers, the database was supported by the International Association of Marine Investigators (IAMI), BoatUS, and the National Association of Boating Law Administrators.

At present, the database contains over 661,000 boat records received directly from the following boat manufacturers:

  • Bayliner Marine
  • Boston Whaler
  • Brunswick Commercial and Government Products
  • Cabo Yachts
  • Crestliner
  • Formula
  • Fun Country Marine
  • Grady-White Boats
  • Harris Flotebote
  • Lowe Boats
  • Lund Boats
  • Manitou
  • Meridian
  • Nautique
  • Regulator
  • Scout Boats
  • Sea Ray
  • Stingray
  • Triton Aluminum
  • Trophy Sportfishing Boats

In less than a year, we have grown from an initial test phase with three manufacturers to nine manufacturers containing records for 20 Brands, with other manufacturers showing an interest in joining.

NICB reminds its members to timely and accurately report thefts of boats and personal water craft to ISO ClaimSearch in order for NICB to determine insurable interest. By properly reporting theft claims, and the ability for NICB and law enforcement to access the type of information being supplied by the boat manufacturers, members receive prompt recovery notification.