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Costs of fake crashes born by society
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When people think of crimes that involve motor vehicles, the first two that come to most peoples' mind is auto theft and hit and run collisions. There are other crimes just as prominent, and while not as obvious to the general public, they are costing insurance-paying motorists a bundle. I am referring to staged collisions and other forms of fraudulent insurance claims like false reports of auto theft. It may come as a surprise that the police are not the only ones investigating these matters. There also exists the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a non-governmental investigative organization that actively looks for vehicle-related crimes that lead to insurance company losses. Keep in mind that fraudulent claims are costs that are passed along to the insurance policy customers. These are not "victimless" crimes.

The NICB is made up of highly-trained investigators, many of whom have law enforcement experience. And of these former police officers, most of them have experience and specialized skills in investigating auto thefts and fraud related to auto insurance. Members of the NICB work closely with local, state and federal police agencies, making for a formidable investigative team.

The aforementioned team now has more work to do than ever. Comparative research for 2009 vs. 2008 shows that "questionable claims" rose by 14 percent. False auto theft claims are not new, but they become more prevalent as the unemployment rate goes up. Instead of losing a car to repossession or having a complete loan default, some people torch their vehicles and then report them as stolen. Another scheme is to sell the vehicle to criminals dealing with stolen car parts and then reporting the car as stolen once it has been completely dismantled and is more difficult to trace.

Staged collisions are particularly interesting as well. A motorist will cause a collision and then claim injuries for the insurance company to pay for "pain and suffering." In some instances, the staged collision will involve two parties acting in collusion with each other. Other times, the other motorist is purely a victim with no role in planning the event. Not only do crimes like this one involve fraud, false reporting and reckless endangerment, but felony conspiracy also comes into play. The police and NICB investigators are fully aware that these crimes are being committed, and while they may not be obvious when they first happen, they are often discovered some time later and the involved criminals can face serious prison time. The police are increasingly aware of staged collision situations and are actively looking for evidence of these crimes when handling traffic collision investigations.

To be sure, the staged traffic collisions tend to involved organized criminals who make a sizeable profit from insurance company payouts for alleged injuries, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, lost wages, vehicle damages, etc. One form of deliberate collisions involves bicyclists who intentionally get run into, and do so under circumstances that makes it look like the motorist was completely at fault. I think that all motorists should be alert to these scams, because the bicyclist usually has nothing to lose; their alleged injuries may be hard to dispute (like neck and back pain) even though there is no visible evidence of the injury.

Insurance fraud, staged traffic collisions, false stolen auto reports, fraudulent claims of damage to vehicles (caused by hail or other calamities) will continue to be part of the human condition, but the extent to which it exists is dependent largely on consumer awareness, thorough police investigations, insurance companies carefully scrutinizing suspicious claims and the NICB, police and insurance companies all must continue working together to make life more difficult for the criminals committing these offenses.

Anyone with information concerning vehicle theft and insurance fraud can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting their web site at Of course, your local police department should also be notified with any of the aforementioned information.