California Department of Insurance commissioner Steve Poizner today announced in Los Angeles that recently compiled statistics show that financially desperate residents and scam artists may be committing more automobile insurance fraud to cash in on insurance money.
The Department of Insurance has seen an increase in suspected auto arson and auto theft fraud referrals last year.
“Many Californians are facing a host of financial challenges in today’s economy, but I want to remind everybody that you will only compound your problems if you break the law and commit fraud in search of a quick fix,” said Commissioner Poizner in a statement. “Department of Insurance investigators have seen an increase in suspected automobile arson and theft fraud cases recently, and our enforcement experts are working hard to crack down on anyone attempting to skirt the law for financial gain.”
The insurance department receives referrals of suspected fraud cases from insurance companies, local law enforcement agencies and directly from consumers. Department enforcement officers carefully examine every case that is brought to the Department’s attention.
The department saw an alarming 31 percent increase in suspected vehicle arson fraud cases in 2008 as compared with referred cases in 2007. (In 2007, the department received 344 referrals for suspected automobile arson; in 2008, the department received 451 referrals for suspected automobile arson.) Overall, the department received almost 300 additional suspected vehicle theft and vehicle arson cases statewide in 2008 than in 2007.
The department received approximately 200 more suspected vehicle theft fraud case referrals in 2008 than in 2007.
While the total number of suspected fraud case referrals received by the department for all automobile fraud categories (including inflated damages, vandalism and hit and run,) has remained relatively constant since 2007, suspected vehicle arson and theft referrals have noticeably increased.
Commissioner Poizner oversees sixteen Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Close to 1900 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance’s enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 – more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
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