Joe Wehrle, NICB President, to Address International Association of Special Investigation Units Annual Seminar

Event Recognizes IASIU’s 30th Anniversary

_WehrleIASIU2014RevisedGREENSBORO, N.C., Sept. 15, 2014 — National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) President and Chief Executive Officer, Joe Wehrle, addresses the International Association of Special Investigation Units (IASIU) during its annual training seminar today in Greensboro.

In his remarks to the 700 in attendance, Wehrle will place special focus on emerging vehicle theft scams that utilize vehicle financing schemes and counterfeit vehicle identification numbers to obtain and resell stolen vehicles to innocent consumers or export them overseas.

“Many of today’s thefts aren’t showing up in the annual theft statistics that show a downward trend in auto theft,” says Wehrle. “That’s because they are considered financial crimes. They are impacting the manufacturers, the lenders, rental companies, the dealers and, in some instances, the insurance companies. And I’m here to tell you they are largely high dollar thefts involving newer vehicles—and they are costing the American economy millions, perhaps billions of dollars a year.”

Read the full press release.

 

NICB Report: Texas Leads the Nation in Pickup Truck Thefts

California and Florida Round Out the Top Three States

PickupTruck2014GraphicDES PLAINES, Ill., Sept. 11, 2014 — As revealed in a new report released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), pickup trucks are a popular choice for both personal and work use, and given their wide range of applications and utility, they have become a favorite target by vehicle thieves as well. Between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013, 9,441 pickup trucks were reported stolen. Full-sized pickup trucks had more thefts with 8,367 thefts versus 895 for compact pickups. Mid-sized pickup trucks had the fewest thefts with 179.

The report looks at theft data only for model years 2011, 2012 and 2013 pickups stolen between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013. The classes of pickups are compact, mid-size and full size as described in Automotive News’ Data Center.

Read the full press release in the NICB Newsroom.

 

NICB: 2013 Tailgate Thefts Rise 31 Percent Compared to 2012

Texas, California and Arizona Most Active

TailgateTheftsGraphicDES PLAINES, Ill., Sept. 3, 2014 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released a new report that shows that insured tailgate thefts rose from 831 in 2012 to 1,090 in 2013—an increase of 31 percent.

The report reviews claims data submitted by insurance companies between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2013.

The top three states for tailgate thefts during this period were: Texas (752), California (334) and Arizona (207). The cities reporting the most thefts were: Houston (145), San Antonio (125) and Dallas (91).

The top three cities for tailgate thefts were: Houston (145), San Antonio (125), and Dallas (91).

The underground market is lively 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.

View the complete report here.

Joe Wehrle, NICB President, to Address International Financial Crimes Investigators

Insurance Fraud and its Impact on the Insurance Industry

NICB President & CEO Joe Wehrle

NICB President & CEO Joe Wehrle

PHOENIX, Ariz.—National Insurance Crime Bureau President and Chief Executive Officer, Joe Wehrle, will address the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators during its annual training conference today in Phoenix.

Wehrle will provide an overview of the changing face of insurance fraud and how it is impacting the property and casualty insurance industry. From medical fraud rings to organized criminal elements hijacking goods from interstate transportation networks, Wehrle will describe what NICB investigators and their insurance and law enforcement colleagues are encountering across America—and what NICB is doing to stop it.

Topics to be discussed include NICB’s major medical fraud task force operations, the alarming rise in questionable claims, stolen vehicle and specialized equipment recovery efforts and NICB’s analysis of vehicle finance scams.

Wehrle will address attendees comprised of law enforcement, bank and credit card fraud investigators, retail merchant investigators and loss prevention professionals, among others, during two presentations beginning at 2:00pm today at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Hotel. For additional information visit here.

About the IAFCI: The association, a non-profit international organization, will provide services and an environment within which information about financial fraud, fraud investigation and fraud prevention methods can be collected, exchanged and taught for the common good of the financial payment industry and our global society. To learn more visit www.iafci.org.

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 $371 billion in insurance premiums in 2013, or more than 78 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($168 billion) of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.

Super Good – The Epic Fraud Fighter

SuperGoodFraudImageIf fighting fraud were made into a comic book, it might look something like this. An injustice, such as vehicle theft, has occurred. The victim calls out for help. In the near distance, the good guys come to save the day. All is set right and ends well in the world – in theory.

In reality, despite their extraordinary dedication and commitment, even fraud fighters sometimes get the blues. In the ongoing saga of fighting fraud, the “good guys” of this epic tale are fraud fighters and those of us who stand up to villains. Villains are those who participate in and perpetrate fraud schemes. But unlike Superman, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman or other famed heroes, our powers, more suitably deemed abilities, aren’t extraordinary at all or the result of some scientific mishap or cosmic occurrence. Rather, they are earned responsibilities undertaken as a result of what each of us embraces and upholds.

Some days we win, and some days we lose. By win, I mean that we stop criminals from being able to further victimize the public. And by lose, I mean when the criminals are able to continue to perpetrate more fraudulent schemes. Sometimes we make headlines for taking down criminal enterprises and other illegal operations. And sometimes, the good that we do goes completely unnoticed or acknowledged by the public. Dare I say fraud fighters are sometimes even viewed as the villains or vilified for their efforts? It’s all part of the landscape. But sometimes, even the most ardent fraud fighter has probably asked himself or herself if it’s ever enough. Will this battle ever end? Why do the schemes and crimes just continue to become more and more abysmal and shocking?

Fraud isn’t just about padding a claim to get additional funds from an insurer. It’s also about people who are senselessly injured or killed by criminals staging vehicle accidents. It’s about residents of a community or employees of a company who suffer the consequences from an act of arson. It’s about the person who loses their life when a criminal purposely causes them harm to collect on a life insurance policy. The list of heinous schemes goes on and on. And the more battles that a fraud fighter encounters, the more disheartening and appalling the scenarios and schemes will inevitably become.
It would be trite to end this story with a cliché comic book expression such as “And as the public sleeps for the night, they can rest easy knowing that their heroes keep a watchful eye.” That can never be the case as long as opportunists and greed abound. They are at the root of fraud. But all is not lost. Just as new villains emerge each day, so too shall new fraud fighters. It’s the person who reports fraud or suspicious activity. It’s the person who questions their provider about a procedure that seems medically unnecessary. Whatever the case, joining the fight against fraud will not entail having to wear a cape,
leaping tall buildings, or travelling faster than a speeding bullet. One need only subscribe to the belief that fraud must be defeated whenever and wherever it exists.

The True Cost of Fraud

NotWorthItIn a press release recently issued by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office of Seth Williams, 22 people have been charged and arrested for their alleged involvement in a seven year scheme that used staged slip and fall accidents to defraud more than 21 insurance companies. The DA’s Insurance Fraud Unit is reportedly in the process of arresting an additional 24 people involved in the conspiracy.

The Grand Jury Investigation mounted in a multitude of charges encompassing Corrupt Organizations, Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud, False Reports to Law Enforcement, Theft by Deception, and more. Those facing charges are alleged to be runners and claimants. Andrew Gaber, the attorney allegedly at the helm of this operation, however, won’t stand trial for his alleged crimes. He recently committed suicide.

The reported suicide of Gaber provides another tragic reminder about the true cost of fraud. Beyond the alleged $400,000 that the participants defrauded the insurance companies, there is the loss of life and prison time. The runners in the alleged scheme were reportedly paid between $100 to $500 cash for bringing in or referring a claim. The claimants reportedly received cash settlements after Gaber’s 40 percent fee, medical bills and any liens were deducted. If convicted for their alleged felonies and misdemeanors, they could face sentences ranging from one to 20 years on each count.

While there is a very long list of names associated with this alleged scheme, there is an even longer list of charges that each of these defendants now face. Will any of these defendants potentially facing prison time now stop to consider whether or not their insurance crimes were worth the cost? By no means is this a sympathy piece for those allegedly involved in the scheme. Rather, it’s yet another attempt to drive home the message that “It’s not worth it,” and to put the true cost of fraud into perspective for those who participate or may become involved in fraud schemes.

The NICB, along with its member companies, law enforcement partners, and other representatives, is part of a national joint effort to detect and defeat fraud wherever it exists. Tweet #fightfraud and connect with us on our social channels to join the ongoing fight to combat fraud.

NICB members and all readers are reminded that individuals arrested or indicted should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Stormy Weather: Spring 2014 Hits Historic Mark

Spring has officially arrived. For those of us in the Midwest and Northeastern corridor who have endured a very long, cold, and snowy winter, spring usually signals the beginning of the end to shovels, coats, boots, and snow blowers. But for some sections of the U.S., spring signals the beginning of tornado season, a time when devastating storms can tragically claim lives and destroy everything in their paths within seconds.

According to a recent article published by the Weather Channel, Spring 2014 is turning out to be a record breaker. For what, you might ask? Number of rainy days? Number of above average temperatures? No. It’s neither of those. Spring 2014 is the longest fatality-free start in 99 years according to information obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center which began a database in 1950 to maintain tornado records. This spring marks the first calendar year within the era of tracking of not having any tornado fatalities this late into the season. That is definitely good news.

StormyWeatherWhile we can only hope that this spring continues to be free of the catastrophic tornadoes that we have seen in years past, preparation is vital for survival. Ready.gov offers the below tips for how to prepare before a tornado hits:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

After a storm, disaster victims also need to be on the lookout for dishonest and unscrupulous contractors. While it may seem unimaginable that anyone would try to take advantage of victims during such a vulnerable time, it can and does happen. The NICB offers the following tips to help avert being victimized twice.

  • 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. Cost, work to be done, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license; write it down. Also, take down his or her license plate number.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
  • A catastrophe greatly magnifies the opportunity for fraud and abuse. Don’t be tempted to conspire in a fraudulent insurance claim. Insurance fraud is a felony.
  • Insurance coverage may be rendered void if there is misrepresentation by an insured.

For more information on preparing for tornadoes and other disasters, visit Ready.gov and DisasterSafety.org. For more information on how to avoid being victimized by disaster fraud and other types of fraudulent schemes, visit www.nicb.org. To report fraud of suspicious activities, call 1-800-TEL-NICB (835-6422).

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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.

Representatives Allege Kickback Schemes and Fraud are Growing Trend under Minnesota’s No-Fault Insurance System

StopFraudMN

The outcome of a pending lawsuit in Minnesota may serve as a catalyst for reform for the state’s current no-fault law. In the upcoming litigation that will likely draw additional attention and increase awareness of flaws within the existing system, Illinois Farmers Insurance and its subsidiaries filed a $1.9 million lawsuit against Mobile Diagnostic Imaging, Inc. (MDI), its owner, and 46 chiropractors. The diagnostic imaging company and the chiropractors are allegedly engaging in an elaborate kickback scheme to defraud the state of Minnesota’s no-fault insurance system. Under the state’s current system, the law requires insurance companies to pay a minimum of $20,000 for medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault in an auto accident.

While the goal may have been to provide personal injury protection for Minnesota motorists, according to local insurance representatives, there appears to be a growing trend in kickback schemes and staged accidents to commit fraud by taking advantage of the state’s no-fault law.

The lawsuit filed against MDI alleges that the company’s owner, Michael Appleman, paid 46 chiropractors kickbacks for ordering MRIs, many of which may not have been medically necessary. It is further alleged that MDI conducted its scans in a self-sufficient MRI trailer and that $221,800 in kickbacks were paid to the chiropractors between January and November of 2011.

Mark Kulda, a vice president of public affairs for the insurance federation, was quoted in the Star Tribune article regarding the case, “Today’s filing of a federal lawsuit reaffirms what our industry has been saying for several years now – that insurance fraud is rampant in Minnesota.”

NICB’s Government Affairs department will be closely following the case as it progresses. As the legislative advocacy arm of the organization, the team promotes statutes, regulations and policies at all levels of government to help serve member interests in preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft.

TimContact3Tim Lynch, a director of government affairs at NICB, says “Unfortunately, Minnesota’s no fault system has been hijacked by some dishonest medical providers, paid intermediaries and unscrupulous attorneys that have turned the system into their own personal treasury. NICB is actively working with the Minnesota Senate Working Group on Insurance Fraud to pursue some anti-fraud firewalls and controls to the current system.”

To join the conversation on stopping fraud in Minnesota, check out the Stop Fraud MN Facebook page. For additional information on NICB, visit us online at www.nicb.org. To contact Tim Lynch, email him at tlynch@nicb.org.