Counterfeit air bags are a hidden threat

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Vehicle air bags, also known as supplemental restraint systems, have come a long way since they debuted in the 1970s. At that time, air bags were limited to the front and deployed the same way for every occupant and crash. While the air bags of yesteryear were valuable, they come nowhere close to the protection and sophistication of today’s air bags.

Many vehicles nowadays have 10 or more air bags strategically located throughout the vehicle cabin, such as knee, center, rear curtain, and even seatbelt air bags. In the event of a crash, sensors within the vehicle register the force and location of the collision, the position and size of the vehicle occupants, and calculates which air bags to deploy and the speed and pressure of the deployment – all in just about 30 milliseconds.

The results are nothing less than lifesaving. From 1987 to 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates nearly 45,000 lives have been saved by frontal air bags. Consumers that own air bag equipped vehicles have come to embrace the added protection and expect the air bags to work without flaw. That is why the prospect of counterfeit air bags is so alarming.

When consumers must have an air bag replaced, there is an inherent belief that the air bag installed is a genuine manufacturer’s air bag for their vehicle. In fact, consumers have no way of knowing otherwise.

Counterfeit air bags are a national and growing concern. Usually procured online by unsuspecting consumers shopping for a bargain, or by unscrupulous vehicle repair ships out to pad their profits, these air bags just don’t work. The NHTSA states that counterfeit air bags have been shown to “consistently malfunction,” from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

“It’s among the most insidious forms of insurance fraud,” says Matthew Smith, Director of Government Affairs and General Counsel for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “Phony air bags are dangerous and can kill; it’s like a time bomb on four wheels.”

However, there are ways consumers can help protect themselves and their passengers from being scammed:

  1. When turning on the ignition, look for the air bag dashboard light (check your owner’s manual if you do not know what it looks like). If the light stays on, starts flashing, or doesn’t flash on at all, your air bag system probably isn’t working.
  2. Before you purchase a used vehicle, make sure to have it inspected by a trusted, certified mechanic. Ask them to specifically check the air bags.
  3. If your vehicle is involved in a crash in which an air bag deployed, consider having the air bag replaced at an authorized car dealership repair shop.
  4. Support state legislation that criminalizes the manufacture, sale and installation of counterfeit air bags.

Alan Haskins, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says, “Only 17 states have adopted counterfeit air bag laws, but the rest are starting to catch-up. We, along with industry partners, are advocating for counterfeit air bag laws in all 50 states, and just this year alone the NICB is tracking and engaged in counterfeit air bag bills in seven states.”

For more information on how to protect yourself as a consumer, visit the web pages on air bag scams of the National Insurance Crime Bureau or the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

State elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their counterfeit air bag laws should contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.

Over 1.7 Million Animal-Related Insurance Claims Since 2014

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The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released a study on the number of animal-related insurance losses for the years 2014-2017. The data is gleaned from insurance claims for losses that occurred in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. A total of 1,740,425 animal-related insurance claims were processed with 1,739,687 of them—99.9 percent—involving vehicles. The actual number of incidents is likely much higher since many drivers do not choose to carry coverage for that type of event.

About 640,000 of those claims specified one of the top five animals involved and over the four-year period, 91 percent of those claims involved deer.

Over 584,000 deer were involved in vehicle collsions from 2014-2017.

While all animal-related claims went up six percent over the four-year period, those that specified a deer was involved actually declined by 30 percent.

The top five animals involved in vehicle collisions were deer (584,165), raccoons (22,644), dogs (20,610), turkeys (7,289) and coyotes (6,023).


The top five states where these incidents occurred were: Pennsylvania (145,728), New York (115,670), Texas (105,036), Wisconsin (81,282) and North Carolina (79,252).

The top five cities where for these encounters were: San Antonio (3,945), Austin, Tex. (2,452), New York (2,442), Pittsburgh (2,115) and Rochester, NY (1,929).

You can download the complete report here and an infographic here.

Animal-related losses are good reason to make sure that you have adequate insurance and understand your coverage to protect against losses from these and other kinds of damage-causing incidents. The average animal crash claim amounted to about $4,000 in 2016 according to one major insurer. That would have amounted to nearly $1.8 billion in claims in 2016.

Excruciating pain and $50K in medical bills? From a minor fender-bender?

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Low impact and minor impact soft tissue injuries are not uncommon in auto accidents, and they certainly can be legitimate. They also can be the result of a staged accident, or the outcome of a legitimate accident that gives someone the opportunity to take advantage of a liability situation.

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If your company is a member of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, our FraudSmart “Managing LIST and MIST Claims – ‘Would I Lie to You?’” course can help your staff become better prepared to review, analyze and handle these claims. Participants will learn the six indicators of LIST (low impact soft tissue) and MIST (minor impact soft tissue) claims, determine what eight action steps should be taken to further investigate the claim, and understand the key indicators that can point to fraud.

There is no additional cost to NICB members for this class. To schedule a FraudSmart class at your company, log into the NICB Website at www.NICB.org with your username and password, select Training, then FraudSmart and contact the training director assigned to your state.

To learn more about NICB, visit www.NICB.org.

Insurance Fraud Headlines for April 22, 2015

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Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* New safety features reducing auto accidents (Insurance Information Institute)

* Three Virginia women face federal charges related to student loans, insurance fraud (IFA)

* Florida Man Ousted in Comp Fraud Case (Workerscompensation.com)

* Miami Man Sentenced for Identity Theft Tax Fraud Scheme Involving the Unauthorized       Use of Debit Cards (FBI)

* Toronto man charged with auto insurance fraud (Canadian Underwriter)

* Washington State Man Tackled in Comp Fraud (Workerscompensation.com)

 

Car Crashes Caught on Camera

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CarCrash1Thousands of insurance claims are made every day in this country for auto accidents. They add up to some $125 billion dollars in payments by insurers. With that many claims there’s also a significant amount of fraud. That’s why it’s important to be able to sort out fact from fiction.

Roger Morris has the story of how one company is putting on crash demonstrations for insurance industry claims experts. This type of experience helps to give them a firsthand look at what happens in a real accident as opposed to a staged accident.

 

NICB News: VIN Clones, Car Crashes and Multistate Theft Rings

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In this edition of NICB News we take a look at some very real car crashes that show claims experts how to spot possible fraudulent claims; we look at a VIN cloning case that caught an innocent buyer off guard; and we’ll hear about the latest efforts to tighten anti-fraud laws in Minnesota.

Chicago Tow Company Accused of Scamming Customers

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As we’ve reported earlier tow trucks scams are becoming a major issue across the country. In Chicago rogue towing has become the most popular trend. That is when tow operators take advantage of accident victims in order to charge exorbitant fees over and above what would be reasonable to tow a vehicle.

One tow company in Chicago has been placing online ads for tows for only $65. However, Natalie Bomke of WFLD-TV found out that wasn’t the case for many victims of this alleged scam.
FOX 32 News Chicago