Two completely different forces have combined to produce a perfect storm of fraud in the market for insuring all classes of vehicle. There always has been a section of the criminal community that specialized in all types of crime affecting vehicles. This starts with the simple use of force to steal or jack a vehicle, through slightly more complicated dishonesty to separate people from their vehicles, and into complex frauds designed to extract large sums of money from insurance companies. Local counties and states all have their problems in managing budgets for the police and, although violent crime gets a reasonable level of funding, fraud and “white collar crime” is a low priority. When the victims are large corporations, they are expected to look after themselves. The FBI’s policy does bend more towards funding investigations of fraud, but the results are inconsistent across the US as a whole. Some units are active and have a good prosecution success rate. Others do not try too hard.
Now look at the effects of the recession. Suddenly, black holes have opened in the local and state budgets. It is not only the investigation of crime that has been cut back. Some states are even releasing convicted prisoners because it is too expensive to keep them locked up. With rising unemployment and honest people coming under financial pressure, the temptation to try a little fraud is growing stronger by the day. As more people find themselves unemployed for six months, the results in suspected crimes and frauds is not hard to find.
The first and most obvious tactic is that your vehicle is stolen. When it disappears from outside or near your home address, this is raises a question mark. Then there are the inflated claims. When you have an accident, the body shop agrees to add in a “little extra” work and you split the cash. But the real problems come when people start to think bigger. Those who are safety conscious damage two vehicles somewhere quiet and then stage a collision at an intersection. The more aggressive have real accidents with faked injuries. The FBI has recently rolled up a ring of medical clinics and attorneys who were prepared to push insurance claims with fake or exaggerated personal injuries. Life is tough for doctors and lawyers. They too can be tempted.
Why should you care? Because except in the small percentage of cases that are investigated and the fraud discovered, insurance companies pay out. So when you get your next car insurance quotes, they will be higher because every state’s level of fraud is rising fast. The days of cheap car insurance will be gone unless the budgets of the police, state investigators and the FBI are given new priorities. You are the victims of all this fraud through the higher premium rates. You deserve to be protected from this outburst of crime. Even though the budgets for investigation work are under pressure, the amounts being lost are hundred of millions. If the investigators could keep a percentage of any money they recover, this would pay for itself. Since that will not happen, we need everyone to complain to the insurance companies and their state Departments of Insurance. The insurers should routinely report every suspected case of fraud and not simply pay out.