Weekly Car Insurance Crime Watch: February 17

Silver handcuff and dollar bank notesThe news doesn’t stop, because crime never does either.

With the deluge of crime stories that Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) sees every day relating to car coverage, here is a roundup of this week’s biggest headline-grabbing yarns.

And it certainly is a deluge. This week, a Colorado lawmaker targets insurance scammers, a Minnesota woman finds out her policy is fake, and a New York group advises drivers about staged crashes.

Colorado Legislator Wants Felony Status for All Insurance Fraud Crimes

A Colorado lawmaker with more than a decade of experience working in the insurance industry wants to make all insurance fraud crimes in the state a felony.

Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) told CBS Denver that felony-status for such crimes needs to be “regardless of dollar amount.”

Williams said that the lack of an insurance fraud statute in the Centennial State, where authorities typically prosecute insurance scammers on theft or forgery statutes, has made it more difficult to put criminals away.

Colorado was one of several states that saw the number of questionable auto insurance claims rise between 2010 and 2012, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Out of the state’s cities, Colorado Springs and Denver generated the most questionable claims in that time.

Minnesota Woman Discovers Fake Car Policy after Crash

A Minnesota woman went through an experience any auto policyholder dreads.

After Cynthia Davis’ Buick was damaged by a cab that backed into her, she went to her car insurer to figure out how to deal with the damages.

Only her insurer wasn’t her insurer. And her car insurance policy wasn’t really a car insurance policy.

Davis told CBS Minnesota that a woman named Amelia Hall sold policies to her and co-workers. Hall was unreachable by the time Davis called her to investigate the supposed Esurance policy that Hall had sold.

“The papers made it appear as though there were a legitimate policy number, which covered her vehicle in full and at a very low price,” the CBS report said.

Mike Rothman, commerce commissioner for Minnesota, said criminals like Hall “take your cash and create a phony insurance card and then pay for the first premium.”

“Then boom, it’s done,” he told CBS. “So you lose your insurance coverage after that.”

Rothman encouraged consumers to cross-reference insurance brokers with the Minnesota’s license verification tool to ensure legitimacy when they buy auto insurance policies.

New York Group Offers Tips to Drivers after Conviction of Staged-Crasher

Last week, the Crime Watch covered the story of Maxo Jean, whose use of “crews” that targeted innocent motorists in New York led to more than 30 staged car crashes over several years.

The New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud applauded Jean’s conviction while releasing a motorist’s guide on how to avoid staged crashes. The guide also coaches victims on dealing with a staged crash if they are unfortunately caught up in one:

  • Never tailgate. Allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. This will give you ample time to stop if the lead car suddenly jams on its brakes.
  • Look beyond the car in front of you while driving. Apply your brakes if you see traffic slowing.
  • Be cautious if a seemingly friendly driver waves you into his or her lane of traffic. Scammers will crash into you and say it was your fault. This is called the “drive down” scam.
  • If you’re in an accident, count how many passengers are in the other car. Get their names, phone numbers and driver’s license. More people may file claims than were in the car. Also get the car’s license plate number.
  • How do the passengers behave? Do they stand around and joke, but suddenly act “injured” when the police or EMT arrive?
  • Take cell-phone pictures of the other car, the damage it received and the passengers.
  • Call the police to the scene. Get a police report with the officer’s name, even for minor damage. If the police report notes just a small dent or scratch, it’ll be harder for crooks to later claim serious injuries or car damage.
  • If a ‘witness’ shows up on the scene and immediately takes the side of the other driver, get contact information and alert police and your insurance company. The witness may be a plant.
  • Get involved if you’re a witness. Watch for the warning signs of a scam, and help the honest victim with details.


About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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