Experts: Gas Prices a Factor in Insurance Fraud Car Fires

August 31, 2006

Faced with high gas prices, low trade-in values and other economic pressures, some people are setting fire to their cars and reporting them stolen in hopes of collecting insurance, business and law-enforcement experts say.

“The sharp spike in gas prices are affecting people who bought SUVs when gas was much more affordable,” said Jim Quiggles, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

“Torching their car for insurance money is a quick, easy and, for them, painless way out of a serious financial bind,” he said.

He called some big sport-utility vehicles “four-wheel battleships.”

Seven intentional car fires were reported in Colorado in 2000, and in 2005 the number was 83, the Colorado Department of Public Safety and Division of Fire Safety said.

Carol Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association, said economic pressures make it more likely people will turn to fraud.

“Cars these days just don’t combust,” she said. “A lot of times when you do see a car fire, unless there’s something you can directly point to, it’s usually arson.”

The attorney general’s office said filing a false insurance claim can result in felony theft or forgery charges, and conviction can mean a fine and jail time.

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