Photos: Harvey Hits Texas Hard

The following images have been sent in by NICB staff members and law enforcement personnel affected by Harvey.

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Images of Hurricane Harvey’s Damage

The following images were sent in by NICB personnel affected by the storms in Texas.

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Hurricane Harvey Victims: Avoid Post-Disaster Scams

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is working with law enforcement agencies, the state departments of insurance and insurance companies to warn victims about post-disaster rebuilding scams.

After a disaster, contractors will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods that have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One common scheme is to pocket the payment and 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 pocket more profit. Continue reading

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.

 

Tailgate Thefts Decrease 6% in 2015

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports today that insured tailgate thefts declined 6 percent in 2015 reversing a consecutive five-year escalating theft trend. In 2014, 1,895 claims for tailgate theft were identified in ISO ClaimSearch®, an insurance industry claims database. That number decreased to 1,787 in 2015 for a drop of 6 percent—the first decline in claims since NICB began reviewing them in 2010.

This table shows the annual tailgate theft claim numbers from 2010:

Year          Claims        
 2010  430
 2011  472
 2012  831
 2013  1,090
 2014  1,895
 2015  1,787

This report is based on insurance claims; therefore, the actual number of tailgate theft incidents may be considerably higher since many thefts do not generate an insurance claim.

The top five states for tailgate thefts—2014 and 2015 combined—were: Texas (1,421), California (875), Florida (252), Arizona (204), and Pennsylvania (68). The top five cities for tailgate thefts during these years were: Houston (300), Dallas (276), San Antonio (141), Phoenix (68), and Fresno, Calif. (51).

See the complete report here.

NX_pickup truck_rear_isoReplacing a tailgate is expensive. A new one from the manufacturer of a popular 2015 pickup truck is about $1,300 with even higher costs for some variants. That helps explain why there is a thriving underground market for vehicle parts, a market fed with parts removed from stolen vehicles.

The underground market is driven by demand for items that can be acquired at a fraction of their legitimate cost. Tailgates are no exception. While many of these stolen tailgates end up on similar vehicles, others are simply sold for scrap, which contributes to the nationwide problem of metal theft.

Tailgate thefts can occur anywhere; several episodes of multiple thefts have occurred in single locations, such as auto dealers’ lots and shopping malls. Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.

Hail Claims Fluctuate Over Past Three Years

Tell a claims adjuster in Texas today that hail damage claims decreased over the past three years and they might consider you crazy. Dealing with thousands of claims from recent record storms in the Dallas and San Antonio areas, insurers and their customers know how Mother Nature can be peaceful one day and in a fury the next.

A hail damaged windshield from an April 2016 storm in Wylie, TX.

A hail damaged windshield from an April 2016 storm in Wylie, TX.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released the most recent three-year analysis of insurance claims associated with hail storms in the United States. In 2013, there were 720,473 hail damage claims filed. That number increased in 2014 to 824,325 then dropped in 2015 to 572,182 claims–an overall decrease of 21percent from 2013 to 2015.

The nation experienced 10 major hail-producing storms during this period according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), each of which caused over $1 billion in property damage. While experts debate why these storms occur, no one argues with their effects—extensive property damage and many times, loss of life.

According to data from Verisk’s A-PLUSTM property database, U.S. insurers paid almost nine million claims for hail losses, totaling more than $54 billion from 2000 through 2013.

In recent years, the costs of these hail-related claims has dramatically increased. The average claim severity during the period 2008-2013 was 65 percent higher than it was from 2000 through 2007.

Weather-related property damage can be as minimal as a few broken shingles to total destruction of buildings. This report focuses on insurance claims resulting only from hail damage.

A total of 2,116,980 hail loss claims were processed from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2015. During this period, the top five states generating hail damage claims were Texas (394,572), Colorado (182,591), Nebraska (148,346), Kansas (127,963) and Illinois (120,513). The top five months, on average, when the most hail loss claims were reported during this period were May (165,087), April (149,040), June (129,085), March (61,072) and July (55,650).

Download the complete NICB hail loss claims report here.

Enduring a hail storm is challenging enough, but property owners must also be aware that in the wake of any severe storm, they may be visited by unethical contractors posing as sincere repairmen. Often, these “storm chasers” 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.

That’s why NICB reminds consumers to always check first with their insurance company before signing any documents presented by a contractor whom you did not request to appear. It’s why we say, “If you didn’t request it, reject it.”

NICB has produced a new public service announcements on contractor fraud that can be seen here and here.

The following tips are also helpful:

  • Get more than one estimate
  • Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away
  • Get everything in writing
  • Require references and check them out
  • Ask to see the contractor’s driver’s license and write down the number and the license plate on his or her vehicle.

More consumer protection information is available in our library of brochures.

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.

Hail Storm Slams Northern Texas

A storm rolled into Northern Texas Monday night and produced a destructive hail storm. The most significant damage occurred in Wylie, Texas near Dallas. As you can see below many homes, as well as vehicles, were damaged in this incident.

WylieHail1

Becoming a victim of a hail storm may be impossible to avoid. But you can avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors who often go door to door in damaged neighborhoods offering repair services. While many contractors are honest and reputable, others are not. Educate yourself against unscrupulous vendors. When contractors offer you their services, consult this checklist before becoming a customer.

  • Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
  • Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
  • Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be completed, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Ask to see the person’s driver’s license, and write it down. Also, get the vehicle’s license plate number.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
    WylieHail2