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Topic - Vehicle Fraud: The Schemes
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Report: In many cases, the real criminal in vehicle theft scenarios is the vehicle's true owner.

Scheme: Owner Give-Up
This scheme occurs when a vehicle owner orchestrates the destruction of his or her vehicle to collect on an insurance policy. The reportedly "stolen" car is often found completely burned in a secluded area, submerged in a lake or buried beneath the earth. In general, owner give-ups are usually motivated by the need for cash, a desire to avoid the hassle of selling, vehicle mechanical problems or an inability to meet car and insurance payments.

Case: The Compost Cadillac
Acting on a tip forwarded to the NICB by a member company, investigators dug through a 400-ton pile of tree clippings to recover a stolen 1988 Cadillac Allante. Ironically, the owner of the compost yard had reported this vehicle stolen in July 1992 and collected $24,000 from his insurance company.

Scheme: 30-Day Special
Owners will report a vehicle is stolen and then hide it for 30 days -- just long enough for the insurance claim to be paid. Once the claim is paid, the vehicle is often found abandoned. The claimant uses the insurance money to purchase a higher-quality vehicle, and the insurance company becomes the new owner of the lemon car. The 30-day special may be perpetrated by owners whose vehicles need extensive repairs.

Case: Looking High and Looking "Lo"
In another NICB stolen car caper, a man reported his Corvette stolen. Little did he know when he bought the used Corvette that the previous owner had installed LoJack tracking device. The police located the car within an hour... parked in the garage of his best friend.

Scheme: Export Fraud
A fraud artist purchases or rents an expensive vehicle, insures it to the fullest extent, then sells it through an overseas conspirator. The owner reports it stolen to a U.S. law enforcement agency. Not only does the owner collect on the insurance policy, he or she typically receives two to three times the vehicle's American value from the overseas market. It's the insurance company that ends up covering the loss.

Case: The Stolen Luxuries
A San Francisco couple was recently arrested for allegedly shipping more than 100 stolen luxury cars to the Far East. They allegedly rented a brand new Lexus with extensive insurance coverage and thirteen days later reported to police that the $60,000 vehicle had vanished. An investigation later revealed the Lexus had actually been packed in an overseas shipping container and prepared for shipment to Hong Kong. Investigators believe the couple planned to ship the vehicle out of the United States before ever reporting it stolen.

Scheme: Phantom Vehicles
This occurs when an individual uses phony ownership documents to secure insurance on a vehicle. The insured will then report the vehicle stolen and try to collect the insurance money. Often antique or luxury vehicles will be used, since the more valuable the car, the larger the insurance claim settlement.

Case: A Classic Case With Classic Cars
In Pulaski, Tennessee, a retired Navy doctor had received $270,000 from his insurance company when he claimed his prized collection of nine classic cars, was stolen from a storage facility. A little over zealous, the doctor claimed (with a second insurance company) that his tools were stolen along with the cars. The receipts for the tools turned out to be phony; and so did some of the registration information on the cars.

Scheme: Scapegoat Theft
Sometimes an individual will claim to be a vehicle theft victim to avoid criminal prosecution for another crime. For example, a vehicle owner who has hit a parked car or telephone pole may abandon the vehicle and report it stolen to avoid paying for the damages caused.

Picture This:
NICB investigators have seen "stolen" cars dredged up from ponds or quarries with the ice scraper still holding the gas pedal down.

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