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Fishy insurance claims on the rise

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, February 22, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

Highly suspicious insurance losses, led by questionable missing jewelry claims against homeowners insurance and artificially induced theft and hail damage against auto insurance, set an all-time high last year, with Californians by far the chief offenders.

The latest figures on insurance chicanery from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NICB, found that questionable claims grew by nearly 27 percent during the past two years to a record 116,268 cases nationwide.

The chief offenders were Californians with 21,935 questionable claims, more than double the number from second-place Florida, which had a mere 10,693. Rounding out the top 10 hall of shame were Texas (10,368), New York (9,059), Maryland (4,296), Georgia (4,126), North Carolina (3,855), Illinois (3,538), Pennsylvania (3,353) and Ohio (3,289).

North Dakota topped the list of the 10 most honest states with a mere 68 incidents of possibly bogus claims, followed by South Dakota and Wyoming (89 each), Vermont (96), Montana (147), Maine (172), Idaho (195), Alaska (206), New Hampshire (209) and Nebraska (348). These are also among the least populous and least urban states, so perhaps fear of easy detection discourages would-be claims speculators.

In the homeowners insurance arena, cases of questionable lost or stolen jewelry jumped 86 percent over the previous year, household loss or theft rose by 49 percent, and suspicious claims involving flood and water damage, hail damage and overstating the cost of a claim all rose by double digits.

On the auto insurance side, somebody's been busy with the old ball-peen hammer as suspected driver-enhanced hail damage rose 35 percent from 2011. Suspicious damage to a parked vehicle increased 30 percent from the previous year, unperformed repairs grew 28 percent, odometer fraud rose 25 percent and implausible auto and body shop claims increased 22 percent.

While questionable vehicle theft (including not only cars but also RVs, ATVs, boats and other conveyances) rose just 6 percent, it remained the largest suspicious claim by far for the third straight year with 12,193 flags on the field.

Although fraud may be growing based on the reports filed by NICB-member property and casualty insurance companies, some players actually cleaned up their act in 2012. Insurance agent and adjuster fraud fell 18 percent, those making claims on multiple policies dropped 9 percent, vehicle and burglary rings declined 4 percent and reliable informant tips improved 5 percent.

There are three easy ways to report insurance fraud anonymously: dial toll-free (800) TEL-NICB (800-835-6422); text keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411); or visit the NICB website at NICB.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus

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3 Comments
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