New Public Service Announcements from the NICB

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The NICB recently released a new package of Public Service Announcements. These PSAs focus on two major issues, preventing auto theft, and recognizing medical fraud after an auto accident.

The preventing auto theft PSA aims to inform drivers of simple steps they can take to keep their vehicle safe.

The other, regarding medical fraud, focuses on anyone who has been involved in an auto accident. Accident victims are often targeted by fraudsters, who want to make quick cash by defrauding insurance companies. The PSA gives practical tips on best practices regarding what to do, and not to do, after an auto accident.

Preventing Auto Theft: https://youtu.be/vPWgcITM_ug

Auto Accident Related Medical Fraud: https://youtu.be/ApEpaOshrCc 

These PSAs are available for use by media outlets and websites. Each topic has a 30 and 60-second version, and is available in English and Spanish. For anyone who needs access to raw files or audio files, please complete our media request form.

Towing oversight legislation needed to protect consumers from wreck chasers

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Automobile accidents are a harrowing experience. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, a driver may be dealing with missing work or an appointment, distressed children, potential liability issues and traffic violations, other motorists trying to circumvent the wreck, and even injuries. This high-stress situation creates the perfect opportunity for an unscrupulous towing company take advantage of a consumer.

This often comes in the form of overzealous solicitation, excessive fees, and shady business practices that delay or make it difficult for owners to retrieve their vehicles.

Over the past few years, responding to these rogue practices, there has been an uptick in towing-reform legislation by states and municipalities, such as Arizona, California, and Missouri. In July 2018, the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) adopted model towing legislation that included a number of consumer protections:

Licensing or registration: State or municipal licensing of towers can help authorities know who is towing vehicles, set minimum standards, and hold bad actors accountable.

Restricting solicitation at accident scenes: Often, dishonest towers will listen to police scanners and attempt to swoop onto an accident scene without being called. Motorists assume law enforcement called the tower and consent to the tow without the benefit of consulting a tow rotation list or their insurer.

Requiring a written estimate of charges prior to towing: Requiring towers to provide, prior to towing, a written estimate is among the best protections government can extend to consumers. Without a written estimate, some towers have been known to attempt to charge motorists $1,000 for a few-mile tow and hold the car hostage (with incurring storage fees) until it is paid.

Fair fees: Without setting towing charges, legislators should require fees be rational and prohibit the add-on of vague fees, such as transfer, gasoline, gate fees, or excessive administrative fees.

Reasonable access: Towers should be required to store towed vehicles at a conspicuous, known location, and consumers should have the right to recover, inspect, or retrieve personal items from their vehicle during normal business hours. Mandating reasonable access helps prevent towers from racking-up storage fees by limiting access.

Tim Lynch, Senior Director of Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said NCOIL’s towing model was the culmination of a two-year effort among insurance companies and their trade groups, NICB, state lawmakers, and towing interests. “Robust laws combined with swift enforcement are needed to make these protections truly meaningful,” Lynch said.

Jack Quinn, NICB Senior Special Agent and former Philadelphia police officer has been on the scene of hundreds of accidents. He says he has seen a much-improved towing climate since Philadelphia adopted in 2017 a towing ordinance that established a tow rotation list. “The tow list has resulted in a reduction of tow-abuse, and provides consumers peace of mind,” Quinn says.

Elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their consumer protections related to accident scene tows should contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.

Southwest Region Holds Seventh Auto Theft Investigation Course of 2018

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NICB’s Southwest Region completed the last (in a series of seven) auto theft investigation course at the South Padre Island Convention Center in Texas this week. This last three day course ran from November 27th to 29th, and was sponsored by the NICB, the South Padre Island Police Department, and the Brownsville Police Department.

The class, attended by nearly 100 law enforcement and SIU individuals, was instructed by NICB and law enforcement personnel with vehicle theft expertise. NICB instructors included Southwest Region agents SSA John Mitchell and SA Israel Pacheco. Other speakers came from the Texas DMV, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the State Fire Marshall, Texas Department of Insurance, Travelers Insurance, DPS, and the McAllen and Brownsville police departments.

This past year, the basic auto theft investigation course has been delivered in Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and San Antonio, El Paso and Grand Prairie, Texas.

In total, over 400 law enforcement and SIU personnel have attended this series of courses during 2018.

Don’t let Black Friday deals turn to steals

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After Thanksgiving meals and celebrations have come to an end, many American’s will head out to shop, as retailers offer deals for Black Friday. As shoppers hop from store to store, loading cars and trucks with merchandise, vehicles can become prime targets.

While Thanksgiving ranks as the second lowest holiday for vehicle theft (according to data from 2017), the story changes when we look to the next day, Black Friday.  Comparing the numbers, in 2017, there were 1,777 auto thefts reported on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, that number jumped to 2,161. Here is a look at Black Friday data from the last four years:

2014  –  1,838 thefts

2015  –  2,244 thefts

2016  –  2,262 thefts

2017  –  2,161 thefts

NICB reminds drivers this holiday season to make sure your vehicle is locked when unattended. Roll up the windows completely. Don’t leave spare keys or FOBS inside. Take a moment and be sure to hide your valuables from view. Even an empty backpack looks appealing to a thief from the outside.

If stopping at several locations to shop, remember to first store your packages in your trunk before leaving one destination for the next. Thieves are known to watch shoppers who place items in their trunks and then head for the stores—that invites trouble.

Here’s how the 11 official holidays stacked up in 2017. See the complete holiday theft report.

  1. New Year’s Day (2,469)
  2. President’s Day (2,312)
  3. Halloween (2,297)
  4. Memorial Day (2,290)
  5. Labor Day (2,180)
  6. Valentine’s Day (2,169)
  7. Independence Day (2,124)
  8. New Year’s Eve (1,962)
  9. Christmas Eve (2,054)
  10. Thanksgiving (1,777)
  11. Christmas Day (1,664)

“Cars for Cops” Project – Houston Police Department

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The Houston Police Department was not spared from the damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. A significant number of Houston PD vehicles were damaged by the storm, nearly 500 in total, with about 100 considered a total loss.

In an effort to assist the police department with their vehicle loss, the “Cars for Cops” program was created. Some of the damaged vehicles that need to be replaced include undercover and bait cars. The NICB, working with member company MetLife, recently arranged donations to the department.

Roofing fraud requires vigilance

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Roofs are among the most expensive components of a house. It is no wonder then that while most roofing contractors are honest and reputable, fraudsters will commonly use roof repair and replacement as a means to swindle innocent homeowners. Worse, in the aftermath of major storms or catastrophe, unscrupulous contractors use the opportunity to prey upon already vulnerable consumers. Common roofing cons include:

False promises: Scammers will say anything to get homeowners to sign on the dotted line, including guaranteeing an insurance claim prior to approval from the insurance company.

Insisting payment upfront: Some dishonest contractors will insist upon full payment in advance and never complete, or even start, the job.

Lie about, exaggerate or create damage: In hopes of a larger payday, shady contractors will state damage exists where none does, exaggerate the scope of damage and necessary repair, or even purposely damage roofs to make it appear that it sustained damage from a weather event.

Sudden costs: Another scheme by unethical roofers is claiming, once the job has started, unforeseen damage or increases in material cost and demanding additional money. As a caveat, roof decking cannot be seen prior to tearing off the shingles and may legitimately need replacement, but the replacement costs should be detailed in the contract.

Alan Haskins, Vice President, Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says that while the best defense to roofing scams is an educated homeowner, state governments play an important consumer protection role. Some tools states can employ are:

Licensing: Not all states license roofing contractors. Licensing is good way to help ensure roofing contractors meet minimal professional education standards and hold roofers accountable.

Right to cancel: Some states allow consumers the right to cancel a roofing contract within 72 hours after receiving notice from their insurer that the insurance claim was denied.

Consumer disclosure requirements: States can help protect consumers by requiring contracts contain specific disclosures such as an itemized estimate of repair costs and a statement that claimed losses are not guaranteed to be covered by an insurance policy. Illinois requires contractors to provide their customer a brochure highlighting consumer rights.

Rebate prohibitions: Some roofers will attempt to lure homeowners into agreeing to unnecessary or inflated claims by offering to rebate their deductible.

Consumer education: States, in the aftermath of a catastrophe, or on an ongoing basis, can be instrumental in educating residents on how to avoid contractor fraud.

State elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their consumer protections related to roof repair and replacement should contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.

For more information on how to better protect yourself as a consumer when hiring a contractor, NICB offers this time-tested advice.

NICB West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Work

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On average, over 2,100 vehicles are stolen every day in the United States. But not all of them remain stolen, nearly 60% of vehicles are recovered. Not by the owners, but often by Auto Theft Task Forces. These groups are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. They work together to recover stolen vehicles, make auto theft related arrests, serve search warrants, launch investigations, conduct vehicle inspections, and assist other law enforcement agencies.

During the month of July, nine separate Vehicle Task Forces across the western United States recovered a total of 350 stolen vehicles. The value of those recovered rides totals $2,749,558.

In August, those same Vehicle Task Forces recovered 407 stolen vehicles, valued at $3,228,992.

In addition to getting the stolen vehicles back to their rightful owners, many of the recoveries lead to tips or arrests regarding other crimes. One patrol unit stopped a stolen rental car, then learned the individuals inside the car possessed stolen or counterfeit drivers licenses, matching credit cards, and 13 pounds of marijuana. Another team, working a stolen vehicles parts investigation, in turn recovered several cloned vehicles, found various firearms, and nearly 300 pounds of methamphetamine.

NICB facilitates cement mixer donation to San Diego Job Corps

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On Friday, October 5th, 2018, Special Agent Brent Bowser, of the NICB Western Region, facilitated the donation of a Western Cement Mixer from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department Evidence Unit to the San Diego Job Corps’ Bricklaying Trade School.

SA Bowser has been assisting San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Evidence Unit on identifying and returning, in part, equipment and trailers that field deputies have impounded and stored at the Sheriff’s Evidence lot.

During the process, a Western Cement Mixer had been seized by the Sheriff’s Department a few years ago and the owner was not able to be located. SA Bowser contacted the manufacturer, Western, who provided the local distributor where it was originally sent. SA Bowser then conducted a records check and reached out to the local distributor for records, but none were available regarding ownership.

SA Bowser then reached out to the local Job Corps’ Bricklaying instructor, Mr. Peter Camarda, about the cement mixer, and assisted Mr. Camarda on obtaining it from the Sheriff’s Department.

San Diego Sheriff’s Department Lead Evidence Technician, Flavio Alfaro, loaded the mixer on a Sheriff’s truck and delivered it to Job Corps. Without the work of SA Bowser, and the collaboration with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the mixer would have been sent to a scrap metal facility for disposal. Mr. Camarda gave thanks for the donation of this cement mixer, and said they can now take on other projects within the San Diego community, such as building dug-outs for little league fields.

NICB’s Hot Wheels: America’s 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

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DES PLAINES, Ill. – The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today 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 2017.

While Honda Accords and Civics produced prior to the introduction of anti-theft technology continue to dominate this report, a deeper look at the data demonstrates just how effective anti-theft technology continues to be. A total of (6,707) 1998 Honda Civics were stolen in 2017 compared with just (388) 2017 Civics. Put another way, (17) 1998 Civics were stolen last year for every one 2017 model.

Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25, 2017 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2017.

Even with the slight increases in the last few years, the national vehicle theft problem today is at levels not seen since 1967. Enhancements in vehicle security and manufacturing are having a positive impact, but complacency can undermine their success. Thousands of vehicles continue to be stolen each year because owners leave their keys or fobs in the vehicles, and that invites theft.

For 2017, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were:

See the 2017 national report, the state report, an infographic and video.

The following are the top 10, 2017 model year vehicles stolen during calendar year 2017:

Download the complete list of 2017’s top 25 most stolen.

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, 2018. 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.

 

 

NICB Disappointed by Gov. Brown’s Veto

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Legislation Would Have Allowed Car Rental Companies to More Quickly Report Vehicle Theft

DES PLAINES, Ill., Sept. 17, 2018 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is expressing disappointment in Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s August 27 veto of Assembly Bill 2169. Assembly Bill 2169 reduces the time from five days to 48 hours, following the expiration of the rental period, before a vehicle rental company may report a vehicle stolen.

In his veto message, Governor Brown cites increased use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and unnamed “other solutions” as better approaches.

While GPS technology certainly is one tool in curbing automobile theft, it is an exponentially useless tool if California car rental companies cannot report the vehicle stolen. Worse, criminals are becoming more skilled in locating and disabling GPS technology.

“Every passing day a car rental company cannot report their vehicle stolen, the likelihood of that vehicle being recovered decreases,” says Joseph H. Wehrle, Jr., NICB President and Chief Executive Officer. “Car rental companies can watch, in real time, their stolen vehicle taken over the U.S.-Mexico border with little recourse.”

According to NICB’s annual Hot Spots vehicle theft report, five of the top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), adjusted for population, for auto theft are located in California: Redding (4), Bakersfield (6), Modesto (7), Stockton-Lodi (8), and Yuba City (9).

Assembly Bill 2169 passed both California legislative chambers with only one dissenting vote. The NICB applauds sponsor Assemblyman Randy Voepel and the California legislature for taking a step in the right direction toward reducing California auto theft, and looks forward to the legislation being reintroduced.

To access the NICB’s Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report, please visit: nicb.org/news

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.