Smooth Sailing for NICB’s New Vessel Information Database

Recent statistics reveal that each month more than 500 vessels are stolen in the United States costing boat owners and their insurers millions of dollars annually. In turn, boat thieves often sell these stolen vessels to unsuspecting consumers for a large profit. But a newly-created database of vessel hull identification numbers (HIN) will enhance the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), law enforcement personnel and the NICB to prevent, detect and report marine thefts and insurance fraud.

Before the creation of the database, law enforcement had to contact the particular boat manufacturer to verify watercraft information. Now, this new tool will streamline the access that law enforcement officials and insurers have to important identification information. The database will also serve the USCG in their work to accurately report and record on-water accidents. Boaters themselves will benefit from this improved system through speedier vessel identification and recovery in cases of theft.
The data that NICB is collecting from boat manufacturers includes:

  • Hull identification number (HIN)
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Year of manufacture
  • Overall length
  • Hull material
  • Propulsion type
  • Fuel type
  • Vessel type

Some records may also contain component serial numbers, which can further assist law enforcement and the NICB with vessel identification. NICB is also collecting hidden HIN numbers.

The database, a joint effort between NICB and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), went into production in August 2012, with Brunswick Boat Group, Grady White and Forever Resorts as beta testers. They also helped define the best information for inclusion in the database. NICB will serve as the repository for this information and will maintain the data on a proprietary basis at no cost to NMMA or its members.

In addition to the manufacturers, the database was supported by the International Association of Marine Investigators (IAMI), BoatUS, and the National Association of Boating Law Administrators.

At present, the database contains over 661,000 boat records received directly from the following boat manufacturers:

  • Bayliner Marine
  • Boston Whaler
  • Brunswick Commercial and Government Products
  • Cabo Yachts
  • Crestliner
  • Formula
  • Fun Country Marine
  • Grady-White Boats
  • Harris Flotebote
  • Lowe Boats
  • Lund Boats
  • Manitou
  • Meridian
  • Nautique
  • Regulator
  • Scout Boats
  • Sea Ray
  • Stingray
  • Triton Aluminum
  • Trophy Sportfishing Boats

In less than a year, we have grown from an initial test phase with three manufacturers to nine manufacturers containing records for 20 Brands, with other manufacturers showing an interest in joining.

NICB reminds its members to timely and accurately report thefts of boats and personal water craft to ISO ClaimSearch in order for NICB to determine insurable interest. By properly reporting theft claims, and the ability for NICB and law enforcement to access the type of information being supplied by the boat manufacturers, members receive prompt recovery notification.

Problem Child

Have you ever witnessed a child exhibiting disruptive or antisocial behavior in the supermarket, retail store, or some other public place? It’s an unpleasant sight to watch, and it’s an even more embarrassing and agonizing experience for the parent who has to deal with it. What’s your typical response? Do you quickly walk past, grateful that it’s not your child? Do you empathize with the parent and offer assistance? Do you shake your head in disgust and blame the parents? Or does the thought cross your mind of what you would do in the situation to stop the inappropriate behavior? Well imagine that the problem child is fraud.

Fraud is a multi-billion dollar a year problem child that impacts each and every one of us. The NICB, its member companies, law enforcement, and other fraud-fighting agencies deal with its disruptive and egregious behavior every single day. The behavior isn’t in the form of a child having a tantrum, kicking, or screaming. Rather, it’s the multitude of costly and sometimes life-threatening fraudulent schemes that are perpetrated against the public. On any given day, disaster victims may be victimized twice when they’re taken advantage of by a dishonest contractor. A person’s financial stability and credit may be ruined by identity thieves. Innocent people may suffer injury or even lose their lives when individuals stage accidents. Consumers may pay more for goods and services when businesses are targeted for slip-and-fall and other fraudulent claims. There is no shortage of schemes, and sadly new ones emerge each day. The NICB partners with insurers and law enforcement agencies to facilitate the identification, detection and prosecution of insurance criminals.

Make no mistake: fraud is a problem child. But unlike those scenarios in which it’s someone else’s child and therefore their responsibility to deal with, we all pay the price for fraud. This problem child will continue to get bigger if the public and even organizations choose to ignore it, point the finger of blame in someone else’s direction, or wait for someone else to deal with it.

Take a stand against fraud. If you suspect fraud has occurred or witness fraudulent activities, report it. Contact the NICB at 1-800-TEL-NICB (835-6422), your insurance provider, or a local law enforcement agency.

VINCheck–Seven Years of Free Consumer Protection

Even as much of New Orleans remained underwater from Hurricane Katrina’s rampage, NICB went about preventing another calamity–the expected flood of water-damaged vehicles being sold to unsuspecting consumers around the nation. With estimates of Katrina-damaged vehicles approaching half a million units, NICB realized the public safety challenge that many of these vehicles would present if not quickly identified and tracked.

So it was against that backdrop that our member companies were asked to participate in a voluntary vehicle identification number (VIN) tracking project. Most of our member companies saw the benefit not only for public safety but for positive public relations that such a venture would inspire and they agreed to assist.

Thus the “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database” was launched on NICB’s website on October 17, 2005. It was an industry first and gave consumers unprecedented, free access to insurance company claims data on vehicles and boats that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

This resource was an immediate hit with consumers and numerous local, state and federal agencies and private sector entities across the nation linked their websites to NICB’s to allow their constituents easy access to this resource.

On November 7, 2007, NICB expanded this service to include information on unrecovered stolen vehicles and renamed it–VINCheck. In June, 2008, VINCheck was expanded yet again to provide data on vehicles that have been previously declared as salvage by participating NICB member insurance companies.

As it nears its seventh birthday, VINCheck remains the most visited page on NICB’s website receiving in the last 12 months over 1.6 million page visits. It is also frequently referenced in all kinds of media from local talk shows to national network radio and television stations and cable outlets.

A consumer recently posted her thoughts on our “Tell Us Your VINCheck Success Story” link on the NICB website. Here is an excerpt:

“It [2011 Mazda3i] had few miles and the seller kept telling me that the title was clean. He seemed suspicious though, and the price was a little too low. I decided to look up the vin number and through this site [VINCheck] I found out that it had had a salvaged title. The seller had been lying to me each time I asked. I didn’t purchase from him because he had lied repeatedly and didn’t know what else he could be lying about. I’m so glad that this site is around. It gives you the basic information for free! But the basic information was just enough to help me with this particular car. It then advises you to have the vehicle inspected if you are still thinking of purchasing it, and advises to have a full report done so you can see all the details. This site was easy to use, extremely useful, and free. I use this site on all vin numbers of vehicles that I am seriously contemplating. It has made my car search less intimidating. Thank you!”

This consumer is exactly the kind of person we had in mind back in 2005 when the Katrina Flood Vehicle Database came to life. We’re happy to say that today’s VINCheck continues to provide that same free access to millions of vehicle records–all made possible by participating NICB member companies and NICB’s 100-year commitment to fighting insurance crimes and vehicle theft.

For the price–nothing!–VINCheck remains the best vehicle history service in existence.

NICB People, Passion, Purpose – Part I

The phones are ringing. People are talking in the hallways. Joe Wehrle, president and CEO, has just walked by to greet employees across the different departments as he customarily does. He knows everyone by name. It’s a typical morning here in the NICB office. As I read through some of the case activities and fraud alerts in our area newsletters, I see the impact that NICB and its partners are making in the ongoing battle to prevent and combat insurance fraud.

One of the groups that is instrumental in this fight is NICB’s Investigative Assistance (IA) team. The IA Group handles all the incoming calls from law enforcement, member companies, NICB field agents and the public. 

Jennifer, a Senior Investigative Assistant at NICB, gives a behind the scenes look at the role she and this group plays.

Says Jennifer, “I love my job, and I’m very fortunate to be able to say that. An average day as an IA entails managing heavy call volume and research. Law enforcement callers from across the nation make up the majority of our calls. Requests typically encompass assistance in building a vehicle identification number, helping identify stolen or burned vehicles, searching for information on people alleged to have committed insurance fraud, and searches for vehicles or people that may have been involved in major crimes. Member Companies call to check if a vehicle reported as a theft has been entered or recovered by a law enforcement agency.  We also aid our Special Agents with whatever information they need, especially when they are out on investigations as it is more efficient for us to conduct data searches than it is for them while out in the field.

The IA group is an integral component of the overall five disciplines (Data Analytics, Investigations, Training, Legislative Advocacy, and Public Awareness) that comprise NICB, working collaboratively. We know that the criminals are working just as hard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to devise new fraud schemes. But, just as we all pay the price for insurance fraud, we can all play a role in combating it. Speak Up! Visit us online at www.nicb.org, call us at 1-800-835-6422 or text keyword “Fraud” to TIP411 (847411).