The St. Petersburg Times cites examples from across the country of a “troubling trend”: State and national agencies that look into scams known as owner “give-ups” – vehicles that are burned, wrecked, driven into a lake, dropped off a bridge or somehow purposefully lost – say these kinds of cases appear to be on the rise. “We have seen an increase in overall activity of (vehicle) fires, floods and theft losses,” said Nick Halliwell of Allstate Insurance Co.’s St. Petersburg regional office. “And we realize one reason could be the economic downturn.”
The number of referred fraud cases nationwide rose 11 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period last year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which collects reports from its member insurance companies. The bureau will not track how many of those 20,246 first-quarter referrals actually prove to be fraud. In many cases, said James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, the vehicle owner is found to have financial troubles. “Insurance fraud has become a personal bailout stimulus package,” Quiggle said.