Florida leads the U.S. in insurance fraud fueled by scam artists in Miami and Tampa who smash and crash cars to generate claims, an industry group said.
Florida, the fourth most-populous state, reported 3,530 questionable claims from Jan. 1, 2008, through June 30, 2012, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said today in a statement. The bureau reported on cases tied to organized groups, or crime rings, that repeatedly generate fake claims.
Criminals who intentionally damage property and then file claims collect millions of dollars each year through insurance fraud, according to the report. Claims tied to personal automobile policies accounted for more than 10,000 of the 13,014 questionable claims nationwide.
"Most often, it's either real accidents with phony injuries sustained by a number of people who are part of the scam, or it's completely phony, paper accidents, where everything is a scam," said Frank Scafidi, a spokesman at the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
California followed Florida with 2,679 claims, and Michigan came in third with 1,080. Los Angeles and New York topped the list of U.S. cities with the most attempts at insurance fraud, followed by Miami, Detroit and Tampa.
"It is easier for people involved in scams like this if there is a huge immigrant population" because newcomers to the U.S. may not understand the insurance process and are easier to exploit, Scafidi said. "We find that in Florida, we find that in New York, we find that in Los Angeles.
Total questionable claim referrals in the U.S. grew 47 percent, according to the report. The number of fraudulent claims filed may continue to grow, the report projects.