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.
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.
California’s Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the nation’s highest per capita vehicle theft rate in 2015, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report. Moreover, California owned eight of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft in 2015.
NICB’s Hot Spots report 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, the number one spot, the Modesto, Calif. MSA, includes all thefts within the entire county of Stanislaus, not just the city of Modesto.
Moreover, 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.
For 2015, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)
|2015 Ranking||2014 Ranking|
|1. Modesto, Calif.||(4,072)||5||(3,047)|
|2. Albuquerque, N.M.||(6,657)||12||(4,754)|
|3. Bakersfield, Calif.||(6,000)||2||(5,211)|
|4. Salinas, Calif.||(2,934)||11||(2,270)|
|5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.||(30,554)||1||(29,093)|
|6. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.||(4,656)||3||(4,245)|
|7. Pueblo, Colo.||(983)||24||(654)|
|8. Merced, Calif.||(1,605)||21||(1,132)|
|9. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.||(25,001)||14||(21,264)|
|10. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.||(2,352)||7||(2,414)|
When the FBI released preliminary, January-June 2015 crime data earlier this year, vehicle theft was up one percent across the nation. That increase is reflected in today’s Hot Spots report and the trend may hold when the final FBI 2015 crime data is published in the fall.
Notwithstanding these occasional increases, vehicle thefts are down dramatically around the nation over the last several years. Nonetheless, the reasons vehicles are stolen remain the same. Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high-end vehicles are often shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer locally.
NICB recommends that drivers follow our four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft:
- 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
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.
As we first reported last April the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) found a disturbing trend — an increasing number of thefts of vehicles with the keys left inside.
The reasons that people leave keys in their vehicles are numerous, but none of them is worth the hassle of having your car stolen. Leaving your vehicle running while you run into a store for a quick cup of coffee or to warm it up before a chilly winter commute might make sense to an individual, but it creates a perfect moment for a car thief who looks for such an opportunity.
Earlier today Good Morning America reported on these types of crimes.
The top five states that posted the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (19,597), Texas (8,796), Florida (7,868), Michigan (7,726), and Ohio (7,452). The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (6,185), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (4,882), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (3,234), Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,141) and New York-Newark-Jersey City (2,917).
Looking at day-of-week data, Saturday saw the most thefts with keys (19,147) followed by Friday (18,719) and Monday (18,647).
The full NICB report can be viewed and downloaded here.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.
Despite 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.
Holiday car thieves had their busiest day in 2014 on, ironically, Labor Day, stealing 2,200 vehicles according to new data released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). NICB’s 2014 Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report analyzes data from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which showed a total of 695,246 vehicle thefts for the year.
After Labor Day, New Year’s Day was the next most active holiday with 2,011 thefts. Halloween came in third with 2,010 thefts followed by Memorial Day with 1,933 thefts. Independence Day rounds out the top five holidays for 2014 with 1,877 thefts.
The holidays with the fewest thefts in 2014 were Christmas Day with 1,225 thefts and Thanksgiving with 1,384 thefts.
Holidays ranked by the number of thefts in 2014 were:
NICB reminds drivers this holiday season when leaving your vehicle for whatever reason to take a moment and be sure to hide your valuables from view. Even an empty backpack looks appealing to a thief from the outside.
In today’s final installment, see how NICB’s “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database” grew from an internal inventory and claims processing tool into VINCheck—the nation’s first free vehicle history and consumer protection service based on insurance claims.
Ten years after Katrina, VINCheck remains the most visited page on the NICB.org website.
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.
When Chrysler introduced the Dodge Charger for the 1966 model year, it wasn’t an overwhelming hit with consumers. Its second generation, however, produced for model years 1968 through 1970, did strike a sweet spot with buyers looking for a muscular performer wrapped in a fresh and striking exterior.
Who can forget 1968’s big-screen police drama “Bullitt?” Its riveting car chase with Steve McQueen piloting his 1968 Ford Mustang GT (debut HW Classics car) through San Francisco’s asphalt mountains pursuing mob hit men driving a black, 1968 Dodge Charger R/T set the standard.
Chargers went through five design generations from 1968 through 1987 before production ceased. After a 19-year hiatus, the Charger re-appeared for the 2006 model year. This sixth generation version includes the Dodge Charger Pursuit for law enforcement applications. Which sets up an interesting possibility—a Charger Pursuit pursuing a stolen Charger.
As NICB’s new report shows, the sixth-generation Charger is the clear favorite among car thieves as well.
NICB reviewed Charger theft data from 1981-2014 and identified 44,453 theft records. Although theft data from 1966 is available, confidence in pre-1981 theft records is low due to the inconsistency in reporting protocols and vehicle identification number (VIN) systems in use prior to 1981. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandated standardized VINs beginning with the 1981 model year, that year became the benchmark for reliable data used in all Hot Wheels Classics reports.
The top five years for Charger thefts were 2014 (3,495 thefts), 2011 (2,967), 2010 (2,950), 2009 (2,946) and 2013 (2,931). The five years with the fewest thefts were 2004 (55), 2003 (56), 2002 (71), 2001 (77) and 2000 (101).
The most popular model years for Charger thefts were 2006 (7,309), 2007 (6,059), 2008 (3,526), 2010 (2,737) and 2009 (1,564).
See the complete report here, or copy and paste the link below into your web browser.
As always, readers should note that inconsistency and inaccuracy with vehicle theft reporting may impact the accuracy and reliability of this data.
Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:
* Surveillance Footage Used in Workers’ Comp Claim (NICB)
* ABC 15)(
* Former executive’s fraud against M&T is rife with unlikely twists (Buffalo News)
* LAPD Raids Organized Credit Card, Gas Fraud Ring (KTTV)
* North Carolina Man Charged with 8 Counts of Insurance Fraud (Insurance Journal)