NICB in the News: Staged Crashes, Mystery Devices and Hail Damage

WINK NEWS Fraud could be behind a recent surge in auto insurance rates.

Rates are up 21.4 percent since 2015, according to Florida Office of Insurance Regulation data. Read the story here.


KCAL9 – Police Say Car Thieves Targeting Vehicles With Keyless Entry

Police say criminals can use key fobs to disarm cars with the convenient entry option. Now they’re recommending car owners use The Club, which locks onto the steering wheel. Read the story here.


Insurance Business – How bad is your state for hail?

New data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau has listed hail as a top culprit for damaging motor vehicles. Read the story here.

 

These Boots Weren’t Made For Stealing….

In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at the theft of over 3,500 boots in an alleged cargo theft in Texas. An insurance claim was paid for over $400,000 for the loss, but in August authorities went undercover and arrested two suspects for trying to sell the stolen items.

Car Full of Concrete – Insurance Scam Fail

In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at how one Houston resident allegedly tried to flood a vehicle to collect on the insurance money. Police in Houston say that the owner of a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe deliberately tried to get rid of the SUV during the April flooding in the area.

He allegedly put a piece of concrete on the gas pedal and tied the steering wheel using the driver’s side seat belt, then he drove it into the rising flood waters. NICB assisted in the investigation.

 

Fraud Files: Severe Storms Slam the South

Enduring a hailstorm is challenging enough, but property owners must also understand that in the wake of a severe storm, they may be visited by unethical contractors posing as sincere repairmen. Often, these characters will descend on disaster areas and go door to door offering their repair services. Although most are honest, some are not. If the dishonest ones get your money in advance of performing any work, you’ll never see them or your money again.

NICB urges storm victims to work with their insurance company and to be careful in selecting a contractor to do repairs. Do not allow someone to force you into signing a contract or paying up front for work or supplies.

More consumer protection information is available here.

How to Avoid Post-Disaster Scams

As Texas and parts of the South-Central U.S. recover from widespread flooding and hail damage, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reminds consumers to beware of buying flood-damaged vehicles and falling victim to unscrupulous home repair contractors.

The worst losses occurred in Texas where hail caused an estimated $600 million worth of insurance claims for damage to homes and autos.

Car Sales Fraud

As with all major natural disasters, NICB assists law enforcement agencies, insurance and car rental companies with identifying and cataloging water-damaged vehicles to keep them from being resold to unsuspecting consumers.

Already, authorities estimate that thousands of vehicles may have been flooded.

“NICB agents see it time after time. Natural disasters bring out dishonest salvage dealers who don’t tell you that the vehicles they’re selling are heavily water-damaged,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle.

“Consumers need to know that these vehicles may appear advertised for sale without any indication that they were affected by the flooding. As always, buyers should be careful when considering a used vehicle purchase in the weeks and months following a disaster like this.”

To help avoid buying a vehicle that has been declared salvage (including flood-damaged vehicles), NICB recommends that buyers take advantage of its free online service called VINCheckSM. VINCheck contains vehicle data from insurance companies representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market and lets buyers see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered.

Home Repair Fraud

In the weeks ahead, homeowners in disaster areas should be alert to the potential for fraud by unscrupulous contractors and home repair businesses.

Roofer“Fraud is an unfortunate reality in post-disaster environments,” said Wehrle. “As any recovery gets underway, fraudsters often converge on affected areas to scam disaster victims out of their money while promising to do repairs. The last thing victims of disaster need is to be victimized again.”

After a disaster, contractors often go door-to-door in affected neighborhoods offering clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most are reputable, but many are not. One common scheme is to pocket a down-payment and then never show up for the job, or never complete a job that was started. Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work that is not up to code in order to increase profit.

“If you didn’t request it, reject it”

Almost all of these scams are unsolicited—they begin with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. That is why NICB recommends that “if you didn’t request it, reject it.” Before hiring any contractor, call your insurance company. Your insurance company will honor its policy so there is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.

Unlike other states, Texas does not require a license for a roofing contractor nor is one required for solicitation. Local jurisdictions, however, may impose certain requirements before contractors can solicit work within their boundaries. One example is the City of Garland that requires anyone soliciting for the purpose of selling or offering to sell goods or services, must first retain a solicitation permit through the Garland Police Department.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

  • Get more than one estimate
  • Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed
  • Demand references and check them out
  • Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number
  • Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
  • Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them
  • Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
  • Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company

Consumer Resources

  • For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.
  • For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.
  • For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck.

Staged Auto Accidents Are Still Big Business

CarCrashDespite the rapid increase in fraud due to identity theft and other schemes, staged auto accidents are still big business. Staged accident rings are typically highly organized – often just as organized as a legitimate business would be! They are usually controlled by one or more individuals and tend to be closely associated with certain law offices and/or medical clinics. It’s not uncommon to see family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors working side-by-side to commit this fraud. Newer and/or commercial vehicles are often targeted since they tend to be insured. These schemes result in higher insurance premiums for all of us.

What can you do?

If you suspect someone of committing fraud through a staged accident scheme, report it anonymously to NICB one of these three ways:

  • Complete and submit the form available online on the NICB Website. Your contact information is not required.
  • You can also call the NICB Hotline at 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422), staffed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time.
  • Cell phone users can text the keyword “FRAUD” and their tip to TIP411 (847411). Plus, iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.

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

VIDEO: Buried Vehicle Allegedly Used in Insurance Fraud Scam

Thursday night the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported on a tip the National Insurance Crime Bureau received about a stolen vehicle buried in the ground.

A nonprofit that investigates insurance-related crimes received a tip that may yield a felony fraud charge against a vehicle owner, officials from the National Insurance Crime Bureau said.

 

A tip was received by law enforcement in Refugio County about a buried vehicle, which was extracted Thursday…the vehicle was reported stolen in November in Arkansas.

Here is video of the vehicle being dug out in Refugio County, Texas. A claim was allegedly filed with the owners’ insurance company.

 

Surveillance Footage Used in Wisconsin Workers’ Comp Claim

A man on workers' compensation lifts heavy groceries and shovels snow while collecting benefits.

A man on workers’ compensation lifts heavy groceries and shovels snow while collecting benefits.

In this edition of Fraud Files we focus on a Wisconsin man on workers’ compensation who had over $1.2 million paid out for the claim in 5 years. Only video surveillance shows the injury isn’t all that severe. In the footage the man is seen chopping ice, shoveling snow and lifting groceries.

The man allegedly continued to receive ongoing pain management treatment from his Wisconsin doctor. Evidence later showed the doctor was billing $15,000-$20,000 a month for these treatments.

A judge found the insurance company was not liable for unpaid bills and stated they were not required to continue to pay for future treatments. Those unpaid bills amounted to over $250,000 and future medical expenses that were estimated as high as $11 million.

 

Insurance Fraud Headlines for June 17, 2015

Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* Ohio Woman Unknowingly Buys Flood Damaged Vehicle (WCPO)

* Grand jurors indict Roswell chiropractor in insurance fraud case (The Telegraph)

* Jackson nurse practitioner indicted (The Jackson Sun)

* Man arrested for alleged insurance fraud (Saratogian)

Insurance Fraud Headlines for June 8, 2015

Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* Insurance fraud charges against Johnson Co. woman (WSVX)

* Ohio Man Ordered to Repay $3K for Workers’ Comp Fraud (Workers’ Compensation)

* Florida Attorney General Recognizes District Employees (Justice.gov)

* Thousands of flooded cars could be resold to unsuspecting buyers (Dallas News)

* Buying a used car? Read this first (MarketWatch)

* Don’t Get Tricked into Purchasing a Flooded Car (NICB Blog)