Insurance companies referred 8.7 percent more suspicious insurance claims to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) ast year than in 2009 and 24 percent more than in 2008.
In 2010, insurers referred 91,797 so-called "questionable claims"--those that appear to have elements of fraud--for further investigation to the bureau, compared to 84,407 in 2009 and 74,146 in 2008.
Each of the referred claims includes one or more indicators of possible fraud. A single claim might contain up to seven reasons for referral, including those for property, casualty, commercial, workers' compensation, vehicle and miscellaneous categories.
The biggest percentage increases in suspected fraud were for suspicious auto glass claims and inflated towing and storage bills. Insurers referred more than four times the number of auto glass claims in 2010 than in 2009, and more than twice as many towing and storage claims.
Fraud drives up home and car insurance rates. According to a recent study by the Insurance Information Institute, Florida residents pay an extra $48.62 per vehicle for car insurance each year just to cover the cost of fraud. The institute dubs the cost a "fraud tax."
"Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime," NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle said in a statement. "It affects all consumers who buy insurance because the money lost to fraud is recovered, in part, through higher premiums. NICB, its member companies and law enforcement across the nation are working to reduce this criminal activity, and I urge all Americans to help us help them. Don't tolerate fraud. If you suspect it, report it."