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

NICB in the News: Most Stolen Vehicles in 2016

(NY Post) Why these are the most stolen cars in America

Car thieves covet 20-year-old Hondas more than any other vehicle in the country.

According to the most recent data compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the 1997 Accord and 1998 Civic were the most stolen cars nationwide in 2016.

Read the full story here.


(Claims Journal)NICB Releases Latest Hot Wheels Theft Report

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) 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 2016.

Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25 2016 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2016.

Read the full story here.


(Cars.com)Do You Drive One of the Most Stolen Cars?

At this point, owners of 20-year-old Honda Accords must be getting sick of “Have you checked the garage recently?” jokes. According to a just-released report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Honda Accord topped the list of most stolen vehicles for the ninth year in a row — with the 1997 model year of the perennial best-seller proving most popular among theives.

Read the full story here.


(KNBC) – NICB’s Hot Wheels Report

 

 

Is Your City on NICB’s 2016 Hot Spots Report For Vehicle Theft?

DES PLAINES, Ill.—The Albuquerque, N.M. metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the highest per capita auto theft rate in 2016 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report.

Hot Spots examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for each of the nation’s MSAs. MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named. For example, this year’s number one spot, the Albuquerque, N.M. MSA, includes all thefts within the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the city of Albuquerque.

After rising to number two on the Hot Spots list last year, Albuquerque was chosen as the site of NICB’s annual insurance fraud and vehicle theft summit in the fall. Local and state authorities gathered to discuss the growing vehicle theft problem and address efforts to combat the problem in 2017. NICB recently ran billboard messages in the city aimed at reducing the theft rate.

New to the top 10 this year, the metro areas of Anchorage, Alaska (No. 6) and Billings, Mont. (No. 10). As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often does—have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it. Which is how Billings, with 877 thefts, places 10th while Los Angeles, with 60,670 thefts places 35th.

For 2016, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)

Each year the FBI releases preliminary Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data for the previous year’s January-June time frame. When the preliminary 2016 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 6.6 percent across the nation. That increase is reflected in today’s Hot Spots report and is expected to hold when the final UCR 2016 crime data is published in the fall.

For comparison, below is a table showing the preliminary UCR vehicle theft data, the percent change from the previous year, and the final UCR vehicle theft figure:

Overall, vehicle theft is down, dramatically, across the nation. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,661,738 reported thefts. In 2015, the total was 707,758. That is a 57.4 percent reduction since 1991.

While the final result for 2016 is expected to be higher than 2015’s number, the vehicle theft environment across the country is vastly improved from the 1990s.

But it could be much better if vehicle owners just followed simple security advice.

In a report published last October, NICB found that for the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them—57,096 in 2015 alone. With the debut of “smart keys” in 1997 and all of the improved anti-theft technology since, it is worthless if drivers continue to leave their keys in the car or leave their vehicles running, unattended, while they make a quick stop at a convenience store.

Vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement and legislatures have been responsive to the crime of vehicle theft over the years and the results are evident. Vehicle owners must guard against complacency and remember to heed simple tips to safeguard their vehicles.

The full Hot Spots report is available at www.nicb.org. See the Hot Spots video here.

NICB recommends that drivers follow our four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft:

Common Sense — the common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:

· Remove your keys from the ignition
· Lock your doors /close your windows
· Park in a well-lit area

Warning Device — the second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:

· Audible alarms
· Steering column collars
· Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
· Brake locks
· Wheel locks
· Theft deterrent decals
· Identification markers in or on vehicle
· VIN etching
· Micro dot marking

Immobilizing Device — the third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:

· Smart keys
· Fuse cut-offs
· Kill switches
· Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
· Wireless ignition authentication

Tracking Device — the final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or 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.

Billboards Aim to Reduce Vehicle Theft Rate in Albuquerque Area

Billboard messages are popping up along Albuquerque freeways urging people to report vehicle thefts and suspects in an effort to put a dent in the local crime rate. According to the latest “Hot Spots” report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the Albuquerque metropolitan area had the second highest vehicle theft rate per capita in the nation in 2015.

Working with the New Mexico Insurance Fraud Bureau and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, NICB provided funding for the messages which will run through April on digital billboards at major locations along I-25 and I-40.

The organizations discussed collaborative efforts to help reduce the theft rate during a fraud summit held in Albuquerque last fall. The metro area was improving from the eighth spot nationally in 2008. Using bait cars provided by NICB and its member companies, law enforcement efforts moved the area down to the number 20 spot in 2012 and 2013. However, reduced funding for auto theft prevention and other issues resulted in an upswing, and 2015 saw the area rise to number two on the Hot Spots list.

The number to call for vehicle theft activity or to report suspected thieves is 505-827-9359. The line is staffed around the clock.

“We urge citizens to call us if they see something,” said Fraud Bureau Chief Roberta Baca. “The community’s assistance is essential in helping law enforcement stem the tide on this unacceptable crime rate.”

Warming Up That Vehicle May Lead to a Ticket

keysincarnicbAs frigid temperatures and wintry blasts have hit a large section of the nation, drivers are increasingly “puffing” – warming up their parked vehicles before heading out on the road. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns that leaving an unlocked car running with the keys or fob inside can lead to two unwanted scenarios.

First, it makes your vehicle a prime target for an opportunistic car thief. In fact, one of out every eight vehicles stolen in 2015 had the keys or fob left inside. That can cost you a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on your level of theft insurance.

Second, in an effort to reduce unnecessary thefts, many states and municipalities have passed laws banning “puffing.” It’s illegal to leave the car running and unlocked, even in your driveway. Remote starters that allow you to start the engine while the car is safely locked up without the keys are usually considered a safe alternative.

“Getting a warning or a ticket is preferable to having your car stolen,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “As we’ve reported previously, 57,000 vehicles were stolen in one year with the keys left inside. That’s one every six-and-a-half minutes. And when you add up the costs of replacing those vehicles, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those cars are not insured against theft and the owner is left holding the bag and paying for a new car.”

NICB recently produced new public service announcements related to this issue and they are now airing on media outlets around the country. Here are the links to view them: Leaving Your Keys in Your Vehicle and Warming Up Your Car.

To view a list of states where it is illegal to leave a vehicle unattended while running click here.

This “Mystery Device” Can Unlock and Start Your Vehicle

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says new technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them.

NICB recently obtained one of the so-called “mystery devices” that the public was first warned about over two years ago. At the time, thieves were being seen on security cameras across the country, using unknown devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables inside. In recent months, NICB has noted reports of thieves not only opening the vehicles but also starting them and driving away.

The device obtained by NICB was purchased via a third-party security expert from an overseas company. It was developed by engineers in an effort to provide manufacturers and other anti-theft organizations the ability to test the vulnerability of various vehicles systems. Called a “Relay Attack” unit, this particular model only works on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and a push-button ignition.

mysterydeviceinfographic-photoversion-final-113016-webIn a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two-week period, 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested. We partnered with NICB member company CarMax, because they are the nation’s largest used car retailer and have nearly every make and model in their inventory. Tests were also done at a new car dealership, an independent used car dealer, at an auto auction and on NICB employee vehicles and ones owned by private individuals.

The vehicles were tested to see if the device could:
* open the door
* start the vehicle
* drive it away
* turn off and restart the engine without the original fob present

deviceinaction

NICB was able to open 54% of the vehicles that were tested.

The NICB was able to open 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.

NICB says there are a number of different devices believed to be offered for sale to thieves. Some use different technology and may work on different make and models and ignition systems. More expensive models may have a greater range and better capabilities for opening and starting a vehicle.

“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner. Unless someone catches the crime on a security camera, there’s no way for the owner or the police to really know what happened. Many times, they think the vehicle has been towed.”

Wehrle says it’s important for law enforcement officers to be aware of this threat and be on the lookout for thieves who may be using the technology.

According to NICB’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who oversees all NICB investigations, vehicle manufacturers must continue their efforts to counter the attacks on anti-theft technology.

“Vehicles are a valuable commodity and thieves will continue to wage a tug of war with the manufacturers to find a way to steal them,” said Schweitzer. “Anti-theft technology has been a major factor in reducing the number of thefts over the past 25 years. The manufacturers have made tremendous strides with their technology, but now they have to adapt and develop countermeasures as threats like this surface.”

A look at the "mystery device" obtained by NICB.

A look at the “mystery device” obtained by NICB.

While there may not be an effective way of preventing this kind of theft at this time, NICB advises drivers to always lock their vehicles and take the remote fob or keys with them. Drivers should also be on the lookout for suspicious persons or activity and alert law enforcement rather than confronting a possible thief.

It’s also a good idea to never invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain sight. And once thieves get inside, they can easily steal a garage door opener and valuable papers such as the vehicle registration that could lead them to your home. So take the garage door opener with you and take a picture of your registration on your cell phone rather than keeping it in the glove compartment.

 

More Drivers Losing Their Cars By Leaving Their Keys In Them

keysincarLast year, a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States.  And one out of every eight thefts was a freebie for the thief.  There was a theft every six and one-half minutes where the driver left the keys or FOB inside.

It’s a growing problem according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).  The 57,096 thefts in 2015 amounted to a 22 percent increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, this kind of theft grew by 31 percent.

Since many people do not admit to leaving their car unlocked with the keys or FOB inside, the actual numbers of thefts with the keys left in vehicles may be considerably higher than the report indicates.

psa-keysincartheftsinfographic2016-finalalt-hq

“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment.

“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”

NICB advises drivers to:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle. In 2013, there were 43,643 thefts; 46,695 thefts in 2014 and 57,096 in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the increase was 31 percent.

The top five states that posted the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (22,580), Texas (11,003), Florida (9,952), Ohio (8,623) and Nevada (8,073). The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (7,815), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (4,380), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (4,118), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, (3,847) and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,365).

One state—Hawaii—had a perfect record. Not a single report of a vehicle theft with keys.

Looking at day-of-week data, Saturday saw the most thefts with (22,081) followed by Monday (21,851) and Friday (21,652).

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.  The full dataset is here. Download an infographic here.

Halloween Is Fright Night for Car Thieves

car-thief-halloween

Halloween thefts for four of the past five years were higher than the daily average.

As Halloween approaches, there may be more than ghouls, gremlins and witches canvassing the landscape. How many car thieves will also be prowling the nation’s streets this Halloween disguised as trick-or-treaters as they case neighborhoods for their next target?

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been analyzing and reporting on vehicle theft activity for over 100 years. While we’ve published hundreds of reports about vehicle theft over the years, this is the first time we have approached the topic to see what effect, if any, Halloween has on vehicle theft.

NICB examined 2011-2015 vehicle theft data contained in the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Stolen Vehicle File to produce daily reported theft totals and then pulled the numbers for October 31—Halloween. The result is a straightforward presentation of theft statistics linked to Halloween, the annual celebration with roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.

The average daily theft totals for each of the past five years was determined and then compared with the thefts reported on Halloween. Halloween thefts for four of the five years were higher than the daily average. One year, 2012, had fewer thefts.

halloweenthefts2015

So, the question remains. Is there a link between Halloween and vehicle theft? Is the behavior of vehicle thieves affected by this annual celebration? Maybe. But during the last five years the data shows more theft activity on October 31—and that’s no trick, or treat.

 

 

Catalytic Converter Thefts Still Smokin’

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that from 2008 through 2015, there were 25,394 catalytic converter thefts across the nation. In 2008, there were 3,246 thefts of catalytic converters. That number rose to 3,986 at the end of 2015—an increase of 23 percent—according to a review of insurance claims data. These numbers reflect just insured thefts, so the actual number of all catalytic converter thefts is likely to be much higher.

For example, an online search of “catalytic converter thefts” produced news stories describing this activity occurring from Michigan to North Carolina and from California to New York—just this summer alone.

Catalytic Converter Thefts

Insured Thefts of Catalytic Converters Are Up 23% Since 2008

California is the state where the overwhelming majority of catalytic converter thefts occurred during this time frame—8,072. It was followed by Texas (1,705), Illinois (1,605), Ohio (1,439) and Georgia (1,215).

The top five cities where insured thefts were reported were: Chicago (980), Sacramento (850), Los Angeles (550), Atlanta (407) and Indianapolis (353).

The full report is available here and the complete dataset is here.

Why catalytic converter thefts?

Stolen metals have been converted into cash by scrap metal operators who may have been acting within the law, but who may also have unwittingly enabled the proliferation of these kinds of thefts by providing a cash conversion point for purloined materials. As these kinds of thefts intensified–often disabling roadway lighting and airport runway lighting—they captured the attention of lawmakers around the country who, eventually, passed tough, new recycling laws to tighten regulations over metal recyclers.

But unlike base metals and other materials, catalytic converters are unique in that they each contain a small amount of one of three precious metals: platinum, palladium, or rhodium. The presence of those metals is what drives catalytic converter thefts as they can easily bring anywhere from $20 – $240 in recycling value depending on the amount and type of precious metal they contain.

An aggressive thief can easily collect 10-15 or more converters in a single day. They often target sport utility vehicles (SUVs) because their ground clearance is sufficient for the thief to gain access to the converter without having to deploy a jack. And that saves time.

While the replacement of a catalytic converter alone may be relatively inexpensive, many times vehicles are significantly damaged in the theft process making repairs much more costly. NICB recommends that consumers–particularly owners of SUVs—consider taking some preventive measures to deter the theft of their catalytic converters. Etching the catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective deterrent and there are after-market security devices available as well.

Fraud Files: Ellicott City Flooding

In this edition of Fraud Files we focus on the flood that devastated downtown Ellicott City, Maryland. The sudden rainfall and flooding killed two people and destroyed or damaged at least 25 buildings.  The 6 inches of rain between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. was the equivalent of a month of normal rainfall.