E: 1.38, S: -0.51
For the past couple of weeks I have been searching for data on repos of automobiles (statistics), which have been strangely unavailable (they were available a year ago). But, I did come accross the following:
In 'give-up' fraud surge, owners destroy vehicles
By Melody McDonald
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.13.2009
FORT WORTH, Texas — One man was behind on his car payments, so he got his buddies to steal his vehicle and dismantle it.
Another didn't like his ex-wife's new boyfriend driving the vehicle he was ordered to make payments on, so he sank it in a country creek.
And yet another man with six-figure credit-card debt enlisted someone — who turned out to be a police informant — to steal his motor home.
All filed bogus claims with insurance companies.
And all got busted. As more people struggle financially, law enforcement officials and insurance investigators are seeing a spike in the torching, burying, sinking and dumping of vehicles by owners trying to get out from under hefty car payments.
Investigators say the people who commit the crimes — called "owner give-ups" — are not the usual suspects.
"Most of them have never been in trouble before, but they lost their job, had a decrease in income or some problem, and they can't afford their vehicle," said Dallas County sheriff's investigator Tom Reilly, who has handled 115 cases this year and is the only officer in the state devoted strictly to investigating owner give-ups. "They don't want to ruin their credit."
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, California ranks first in the nation for owner give-ups, followed by Texas. Among cities, Houston is first in the nation for this type of insurance fraud, followed by Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Bureau officials report that owner give-ups are up 24 percent from last year, when they received 262 reports during the first quarter, compared with 325 during the same period this year. Likewise, suspicious vehicle fires are up 27 percent, with 757 reported nationwide in the first part of this year.
James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, said the group started seeing an uptick in owner give-ups in late 2007 when gas prices soared.
"Two summers ago, when gas prices were over $4.50, SUVs were going up in flames almost like Pompeii," he said. "Everywhere you looked, some schlep had gone upside down on payments and needed a way to get rid of their road hogs.
"People who wouldn't steal a ballpoint pen from a drugstore are illegally unloading their vehicles in a personal economic stimulus bailout, courtesy of insurance fraud."
Investigators say it's not uncommon for someone to give up a vehicle by painstakingly taking it apart, called a "surgical strip"; abandoning it in Mexico; or sinking it in a lake or canal. Often, they just take the vehicle to a remote location, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire.