Over 637,000 Vehicles Damaged in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Flooded vehicles have finally stopped arriving at the Royal Purple Raceway east of Houston. Some 23,000 now await processing and retitling to be auctioned off for parts or to be scrapped. That is just one of several insurance industry salvage locations where more than 422,000 insured vehicles damaged by Harvey have been taken for processing. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), these totals surpass the number of claims that resulted from Hurricane Katrina (approx. 300,000) and from Superstorm Sandy (250,500).

In addition, more than 215,000 claims have been filed following damage to vehicles from Hurricane Irma in Florida.

These insured vehicles will be processed and rebranded with a salvage title and sold at online auctions to dismantlers who will save usable parts or have the vehicle crushed and sold for scrap.

The VIN numbers are entered into the NICB’s VINCheck database, which is free to the public and will indicate the vehicle has been damaged and branded. They are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren’t insured will be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage.

Some unscrupulous buyers will also buy a branded vehicles, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a “clean” title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded.

Anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the weeks and months ahead should be on the lookout for hidden flood damage. Here are some tips.

  1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
  2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
  3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
  4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
  5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
  6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
  7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
  8. Check the operation of electrical components
  9. Check for mold or a musty odor

A sea of flooded vehicles pack a raceway outside of Houston, Texas.

100,000+ Insured Vehicles Soaked in Louisiana

The August downpours that dumped more than 30 inches of rain in two days on parts of Louisiana have left as many as 100,000 cars and trucks damaged – and that’s only counting insured vehicles.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), says claims reporting and vehicle recovery efforts that were initially slowed by the large scale flooding are now in full swing and, according to the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, the numbers are much higher than originally expected.

Based on the extensive vehicle losses following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana enacted strong measures to help protect unsuspecting consumers from buying a flood-damaged vehicle. Once an insured vehicle has been determined by the insurer to have been flood damaged it is towed to one of the auction facilities and processed with a new title that indicates it has been water damaged. In Louisiana, during an emergency like the recent flooding, the severity of flood water damage may require a Certificate of Destruction. In that case, the vehicle has to be crushed, or sold to a company that will dismantle it for parts and destroy what remains. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is entered into the state’s records, NICB’s VINCheckSM, and the National Motor Vehicle Title Identification System (NMVTIS) so that the consumers can check a vehicle history before purchasing a used car or truck.

Flooded vehicles that did not have insurance coverage are a major concern as they are frequently cleaned up to hide the damage and then sold to unsuspecting consumers with no indication of a problem. The number of uninsured vehicles that were flood damaged may be even more than the number of insured vehicles since many owners choose to drop their policy’s comprehensive coverage as the vehicle ages.

“It’s buyer beware,” said Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Karen St. Germaine, who warns those in the market for a used car both in state and across the country to do their homework before putting any money on the line.

Tips

  • Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard, and in the wheel well where the spare is stored. Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights.
  • Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that someone’s trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. You can check NICB’s free VINCheck database and the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicle’s site. There are also reliable services that charge a small fee for history reports.
  • Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.

For more tips click here.

NICB and state officials, including the Louisiana State Police, work closely to pursue possible insurance fraud and vehicle theft. If you suspect fraud, call the NICB Hotline at 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422).

Northwest Warns of Flooded Vehicle Scams

NICB Senior Special Agent Scott Wagner is interviewed by KING5 about flooded vehicles in the northwest region. The Washington Department of Licensing is warning consumers about a flood vehicles damaged in the Texas and South Carolina floods that could get be repaired and then sold across the state.

Honda Accord Tops the List for Most Stolen Vehicle in the U.S.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today 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 2014.

Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25 2014 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2014.

For 2014, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were (total thefts in parentheses):

1. Honda Accord (51,290)
2. Honda Civic (43,936)
3. Ford Pickup (Full Size) (28,680)
4. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) (23,196)
5. Toyota Camry (14,605)
6. Dodge Pickup (Full Size) (11,075)
7. Dodge Caravan (10,483)
8. Nissan Altima (9,109)
9. Acura Integra (6,902)
10. Nissan Maxima (6,586)

See the complete report here. Or paste this link into your browser: www.nicb.org/File Library/Public Affairs/2014_State_Top10for-release.xls.

The following are the top 10 2014 model year vehicles stolen during calendar year 2014 (total thefts in parentheses):

1. Ford Pickup (Full Size) (964)
2. Toyota Camry (869)
3. Ford Fusion (819)
4. Chevrolet Impala (746)
5. Nissan Altima (687)
6. Dodge Charger (680)
7. Taotao Industry Co. Scooter/Moped (592)
8. Toyota Corolla (578)
9. Chevrolet Cruze (566)
10. Ford Focus (505)

Download 2014’s complete top 25 most stolen list from this spreadsheet. Or paste this link into your browser: www.nicb.org/File Library/Public Affairs/Top25Modesl_NewModel-VehYear2014.xls. Although vehicle theft has been on a long downward trajectory, it is still a severe economic hardship for many to lose their vehicle to theft—especially if a vehicle is uninsured. That is why NICB continues to advise all drivers to review our four “Layers of Protection”:

  • Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys. It’s simple enough, but many thefts occur because owners make it easy for thieves to steal their cars.
  • Warning Device: Having and using a visible or audible warning device is another item that can ensure that your car remains where you left it.
  • Immobilizing Device: Generally speaking, if your vehicle can’t be started, it can’t be stolen. “Kill” switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that are extremely effective.
  • Tracking Device: A tracking device emits a signal to the police or to 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.

Considering a used vehicle purchase? Check out VINCheck, a free vehicle history service for consumers. Since 2005, NICB has offered this limited service made possible by its participating member companies. Check it out at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.

*This report reflects stolen vehicle data contained in NCIC and present in the “NCIC mirror image” when accessed by NICB on March 2, 2015. NCIC records may contain errors based on inaccurate entries submitted by reporting agencies. Full size pickups include half ton and larger capacity models for all makes.

HotWheels-2014-Infographic-edit

Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later: Coast to Coast Impact – Part 4

Today’s video segment shows how in the weeks and months after Katrina, NICB agents were finding vehicles damaged by floodwaters for sale from New York to California. These potential coffins on wheels were just waiting to be purchased by unsuspecting consumers.

To view the other parts of this series click here.

NICB and Hurricane Katrina: A 10-Year Retrospective Part Two

CarpenterKatrinaQuoteEach day this week the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) will release segments of a five-part documentary video that provides first-hand recollections of NICB employees and law enforcement personnel as they reflect on their roles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Recognizing the unprecedented number of vehicles that were flooded or otherwise damaged from Katrina, NICB dispatched teams to the region and established the Gulf Coast Task Force (GCTF) which operated from two locations: Baton Rouge, La. and Mobile, Ala. Over the next several months, NICB personnel from all over the United States were rotated through the GCTF where they worked side-by-side with state and local law enforcement officers in identifying and cataloging the thousands of damaged vehicles that littered every part of New Orleans and Mobile—and most points in between—in Nature’s random display of destruction.

Today’s video segment illustrates how NICB’s established operations centers and got down to work.

Video release schedule:

Monday: Part 1: Multistate Devastation

Tuesday, Part 2: NICB’s Initial Response

Wednesday, Part 3: Vehicle Identification

Thursday, Part 4: Coast to Coast Impact

Friday, Part 5: Birth of VINCheck

Hurricane Katrina: A 10-Year Retrospective

Katrina10YearsBeginning today—and every day this week—the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) will release segments of a five-part documentary video that provides first-hand recollections of NICB employees and law enforcement personnel as they reflect on their roles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Video release schedule:

Monday, Part 1: Multistate Devastation

Tuesday, Part 2: NICB’s Initial Response

Wednesday, Part 3: Vehicle Identification

Thursday, Part 4: Coast to Coast Impact

Friday, Part 5: Birth of VINCheck

Widespread destruction, NICB responds

While Katrina impacted parts of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, its most widespread destruction occurred in Louisiana in and around New Orleans. After making landfall on August 29, 2005, Katrina’s heavy rainfall and significant storm surge caused breaches in a number of the levees protecting New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. As a result of those levee failures, roughly 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater by August 31.

In terms of property damage, Hurricane Katrina was the most costly on record with insured losses estimated at over $41 billion*. Part of that figure came from insurance claims on more than 300,000 vehicles damaged or destroyed by Katrina—vehicles that presented an attractive opportunity for fraud.

KatrinaFloodedVehiclesRecognizing the unprecedented number of vehicles that were flooded or otherwise damaged from Katrina, NICB dispatched teams to the region and established the Gulf Coast Task Force (GCTF) which operated from two locations: Baton Rouge, La. and Mobile, Ala. Over the next several months, NICB personnel from all over the United States were rotated through the GCTF where they worked side-by-side with state and local law enforcement officers in identifying and cataloging the thousands of damaged vehicles that littered every part of New Orleans and Mobile—and most points in between—in Nature’s random display of destruction.

As the vehicle inventory process took shape, GCTF personnel had some time to pursue allegations of insurance fraud which NICB was receiving on its hotline almost from the moment Katrina made landfall. Even as search and recovery efforts were underway, some saw opportunity to exploit tragedy for personal and illicit gain. NICB investigated everything from bogus claims for flooded vehicles that were nowhere near the storm area to yachts being scuttled by their owners, but blamed on Katrina so they could collect an insurance payoff.

The birth of VINCheck

VINCheckTo prevent unsafe flood vehicles from entering the commerce stream disguised as legitimate used vehicles, NICB created the “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database.” This database was populated with the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) of every Katrina-damaged vehicle that was insured by one of NICB’s 1,100 member insurance companies. Although initially developed to more efficiently share data with law enforcement, state fraud bureaus, motor vehicle departments and insurance companies, NICB realized that allowing consumers to have free access to this data was the best way to help them protect themselves from making an expense—and potentially life-threatening—flood vehicle purchase.

Within two months of Katrina’s landfall, The Katrina Flood Vehicle Database was opened to the public. As this free consumer protection grew in popularity and usage, its name evolved into VINCheck. With the new name and with the cooperation of participating insurance companies, VINCheck not only identified flood vehicles, but any vehicle that had been declared a total loss, salvage, or was an unrecovered stolen vehicle.

Since its creation, VINCheck has been the most visited page on the NICB.org website. From January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014, more than 5 million VINs have been searched through VINCheck. From those queries, 48,442 theft records and 507,110 salvage records were identified meaning that VINCheck may have saved thousands of innocent consumers from experiencing significant financial losses—or worse.

The hurricanes of 2005, of which Katrina was the Queen of Destruction, challenged all levels of government as well as state and local law enforcement, the insurance industry and disaster relief agencies. The lessons learned from Katrina helped government and non-government officials deal with another mega storm when 2012’s Sandy devastated the Eastern Seaboard and other inland areas.

While natural disasters are an unfortunate reality of life we can understand them. To some extent, we can prepare for them and mitigate their damage. But when ill-intentioned people use these events to commit fraud against a population already reeling from a disaster, they will eventually attract law enforcement’s attention with NICB agents at their side.

As we did after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike, and Sandy, NICB’s nationwide distribution of investigative and analytical resources are poised to deter, detect and defeat acts insurance fraud that would cause further harm to the legitimate victims of catastrophes.

*The Insurance Fact Book, 2015, p. 148, Insurance Information Institute, New York.

NICB and Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later

Beginning next Monday—and every day that week—the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) will release segments of a five-part documentary video that provides first-hand recollections of NICB employees and law enforcement personnel as they reflect on their roles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Video release schedule:

Monday, Part 1: Multistate Devastation

Tuesday, Part 2: NICB’s Initial Response

Wednesday, Part 3: Vehicle Identification

Thursday, Part 4: Coast to Coast Impact

Friday, Part 5: Birth of VINCheck

Besides being located here the videos will also be available via our YouTube account or at our website at www.nicb.org.

Insurance Fraud Headlines for June 5, 2015

Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* Texas Flooding Damages up to 10,000 Insured Vehicles (NICB)

* Normal online transaction nearly turned into an international crime (F&I)

* Prosecutor says insurance fraud scheme was run from chiropractic office (NorthJersey)

* Leland woman charged with insurance fraud (StarNews)

 

Insurance Fraud Headlines for June 4, 2015

Here are the top insurance fraud stories for today:

* Fraud alert: Avoiding flooded cars (KPRC-TV)

Tara Herndon

Tara Herndon

* Woman allegedly failed to report income on second job while on workers’ comp (Command Investigations)

* After the flood: How to spot and avoid damaged cars (Kelly Blue Book)

* North Carolina Woman Accused of Insurance Fraud Against American Modern (Insurance Journal)

Courtesy: WOIO

Courtesy: WOIO

* Former funeral home owner pleads guilty to fraud (WOIO-TV)