The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) works diligently to prevent and detect insurance fraud and vehicle theft through various outlets. One way the Des Plaines, Ill.-based, not-for-profit organization fulfills its mission is by reviewing suspicious claims from its more than 1,000 P&C insurance member companies and self-insured organizations.

The member companies typically refer files to the NICB for closer review and investigation based on one or more indicators of fraud. This year the NICB noticed a surge in referrals spanning nearly all categories. A review of the organization’s files indicated a 20-percent increase in suspicious car fires, a 76-percent increase in questionable auto glass claims, and a 90-percent hike in product liability claims.

Members referred a total of 41,619 of such “questionable” claims to NICB during the first half of 2009. This figure represented a 13-percent increase compared to the 36,743 claims received by the NICB during the same period in 2008.

As in the previous report released last April, there was a quantifiable increase in suspicious claims submitted under property, casualty, commercial, vehicle, and miscellaneous referral reasons. Joe Wehrle, NICB president and chief executive officer, pointed to a “modest improvement” within several categories of referrals but emphasized overall increase and commitment to effectively ferret out fraud.

“We will aggressively investigate fraudulent claims to protect our member companies and their policyholders,” said Wehrle. “But all Americans — [regardless of] whether they are insured by one of our member companies — benefit from our efforts, as our success over fraud helps keep insurance costs affordable.”

NICB’s rise in suspicious claim referrals echoes an equally troubling announcement from the office of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Commissioner, Steve Poizner. More information about the growing incidence of suspected auto arson and auto theft referrals in Calif. can be found in Eric Gilkey’s article here.