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Suspect 'free windshield' pitches suddenly drop, report finds

Post Time:Mar 07,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:338


The pitch people who canvassed neighborhoods and hung out at gas stations, pressuring Floridians to have their vehicles' windshields replaced "for free" by filing an insurance claim, apparently are moving on to other pursuits.


Suspicious auto glass replacement referrals, which skyrocketed by 450 percent in 2010, dropped by 63 percent in 2011, according to new statistics released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Florida, Texas and Arizona were the top states for the practice, called "harvesting" by the auto glass industry.


Insurance carriers flagged 2,182 suspect glass referrals nationwide for the bureau to investigate in 2010. That number dropped to 817 referrals last year, according to the bureau, an industry-funded organization that monitors fraud. State-by-state numbers will be available later this year.


Sometimes more than one referral — the reason a claim is being flagged — is included in a single claim.


CEO and president Joe Wehrle credited the decline to the bureau's efforts to alert police, insurers and the public. "As we see trends showing an increase in questionable claims [in a particular area], we can focus our efforts on investigating some of those claims," he said in a statement.


Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said people who are more interested in making quick money off consumers than providing quality service often head into other easy-to-replicate businesses once scrutiny starts. "That's why we have more problems chasing down telemarketing operations. They can move so quickly," he said.


Overall, questionable claims were up more than 9 percent, with the bureau receiving 100,450 claims. Faked or exaggerated injuries were the most common referral reason.


Auto glass harvesting is not illegal, but regulators worried some crossed the line into insurance fraud. The approach: Salespeople point out what they say is a chip or crack in a windshield and explain that an insurer can replace the glass at no cost. Usually, the solicitor asks for an insurance card and starts the claim on the spot.


Some consumers, like Alaric Burn of Fort Lauderdale, began filing complaints with regulators, saying their windshields were fine, but they were pressured into going through with the replacement. "There was no damage, no nothing," Burn told state officials in August 2010 about an incident involving his ex-wife's Mercedes.


Experts warn that installations done by untrained door-to-door salespeople could be dangerous, as improperly done work could cause windshields to collapse in a crash. Such operators also might use second-hand products, they said.


David Walker, a vice president with the National Glass Association industry group, was once flooded with association member complaints about harvesters but no longer gets any. "Something happened in the marketplace to make these guys go away," he said.


Source: Sunsentinel.comAuthor: shangyi

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