Weekly Car Insurance Crime Watch: January 24

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, Esurance profiles its Special Investigation Unit’s work against crime and a “Hollywood” couple’s plan to get away with fraud is unraveled by a neighbor.

Esurance Profiles Work by Special Investigation Unit

Esurance profiled its crime-fighting efforts on its regularly updated and wittily written blog last week, with a look inside its Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The look was provided by Robert Cline, SIU director at Esurance, and Geoff Keah, an SIU manager.

According to Cline, who sports a background with criminal investigations in the U.S. Army and as a reserve deputy in Florida’s Orange County, insurance fraud fits into two general definitions:

  • Opportunistic insurance fraud: “Usually takes the form of a legitimate claim or incident that’s exaggerated or embellished beyond the actual facts of the loss. An example would be filing a claim for an injury that occurred prior to the accident.”
  • Organized insurance fraud: “An actual scheme usually associated with criminal organizations. These scammers look for opportunities to purchase bogus policies and then stage accidents or other intentional events to get the claim payout.”

Keah, with a background with the North Texas Fire Investigators Association, will be an asset for Esurance’s recently formed “specialized fire and theft team.” Though Keah and Esurance said in the blog post that explaining specialists’ work in-depth would expose “trade secrets” and enable would-be criminals, they offered an exciting photo gallery of cars that were set on fire at the insurer’s first-ever fire and theft training session.

But Esurance isn’t the only major insurer operating an SIU; GEICO and Progressive have similarly lettered entities that look into fraud.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, criminals perpetrating these sorts of crimes inflate the cost of car insurance by $200 to $300 a year for the average American household.

Florida Man’s Stolen Car Claim Deflated by Neighbor

Here’s a Hollywood story that isn’t exactly “Hollywood.”

Plot summary: Miguel and Francheska Quintero, of Hollywood, Fla., were arrested after trying pull off a phony claim with their car insurer, according to a release this week from the office of Jeff Atwater, Florida’s chief financial officer.

Inciting incident: Last July, the Quinteros’ next-door neighbor called Miguel to warn him about two men he saw “working on and attempting to start Quintero’s vehicle,” a 2011 Chevy Tahoe. Miguel responded that “he was aware of the activity” and told the neighbor “you don’t know anything about this.”

Conflict: Local police received a report from Miguel that his car was gone from his Hollywood residence in Miami-Dade County, while Francheska submitted a stolen vehicle claim to GEICO. Police found Quintero’s Chevy Tahoe in Doral, Fla., in the adjacent Broward County.

Epilogue: Further investigation by the Department of Financial Services uncovered the couple’s attempt to “lie and cheat the system,” according to Atwater, who added that investigators found that, at the time they concocted the theft, the Quinteros owed more than $35,000 on their car loan and were three months late on payments.

It’s hard to find a Hollywood story that parallels the Quintero story exactly, though “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “Dude, Where’s My Car” could qualify as long-shots.

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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