ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Dec. 3, 2012) – Insurance fraud is the second most costly white collar crime in America (behind tax evasion), with auto insurance scams playing significantly into the scenario. Whether it’s a staged car crash, car arson or exaggerated injuries and suspect medical billing, criminals are creating new ways to cheat the auto insurance system, necessitating the creation of groups like the Mercury Insurance Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” says Ray Gomes, Mercury’s SIU manager in Florida. “These types of rip-offs annually cost families an average of $400 - $700 in increased premiums.”
Florida ranks first nationally in most staged auto accidents, with Tampa, Miami and Orlando currently placing in the top-five. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that auto insurance fraud will cost Floridian auto policyholders up to $1 billion in 2012.
“Florida is a hotbed for auto insurance fraud, and oftentimes it’s very difficult to detect,” says Gomes, a former regional vice commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. “There are some telltale signs, however, and we wanted fellow investigators and law enforcement personnel to be able to identify them. This is why we burned a car to the ground and then worked with local investigators to help them identify arson-related fraud.
“Seminars like this provide up-to-date information about auto insurance trends and scams, as well as hands-on experience that can be used in the field during investigations.”
Mercury was one of the first insurance companies to establish an SIU squad back in 1978 and has since uncovered and helped prosecute thousands of fraudulent auto-related crimes, saving policyholders hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It’s a non-stop battle against organized crime syndicates and everyday rip-off artists,” says Gomes. We’re the CSI guys from the insurance industry – but with a lot less notoriety.”
ABOUT MERCURY INSURANCE (www.mercuryinsurance.com) Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization offering predominantly personal automobile and homeowners insurance through a network of independent agents in California, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Since 1962, Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices – core values that distinguish Mercury in the marketplace.