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ISSUED 1/23/2004 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SERIO: DEPARTMENT HAS RECORD YEAR FIGHTING INSURANCE FRAUD

Annual Fraud Report Details Record-Breaking Year as New Yorkers Are Urged to ‘Get Smart About Insurance Fraud’ to Best Protect Themselves From Falling Victim

Superintendent of Insurance Gregory V. Serio today released the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau 2003 Annual Report. The report details significant achievements made over the past year to combat insurance fraud in New York, including a record number fraud arrests, more fraud investigators placed with prosecutors’ offices, and a court decision upholding a key anti-fraud measure that will strengthen the Department’s commitment to identifying and stopping fraud.

The Annual Report was released in conjunction with "Get Smart About Insurance Week," which serves to remind all New Yorkers of the need to educate themselves about their insurance coverage as well as about the types of insurance fraud and how fraud affects the honest premium-paying insurance consumer.

"The Annual Report illustrates that 2003 was a successful year for our anti-fraud initiatives and, in turn, a terrible year for those who commit insurance fraud. Our frauds investigators are better trained and better positioned to combat fraud than ever before, allowing the Department to make more insurance fraud arrests," Serio said. "The Report details the efforts of the Department’s Frauds Bureau to combat fraud, but an important piece of the fraud fighting effort is the need for New Yorkers to do their part too. ‘Get Smart About Insurance Week’ underscores the need for insurance consumers to become educated about insurance, including insurance fraud and to become familiar with the varying ways insurance fraud can be perpetrated in an effort to reduce fraud and minimize its impact."

The Department’s partnering efforts with other law enforcement agencies, insurers and the public reached new levels in 2003.

"Attorney General Spitzer, the district attorneys across the state and the insurance community contributed significant support to the Department’s fraud-fighting efforts. Multi-agency investigations, representing an unprecedented level of cooperation, have become routine, as law enforcement agencies on all levels increasingly work together to combat insurance fraud to best serve the people of New York State," added Serio.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The 811 arrests in 2003 topped the previous year’s level by 15% and is nearly a 200% increase from the 1997 level of 276 arrests.
  • The Frauds Bureau also conducted 54 Continuing Education programs that helped teach local law enforcement how to identify, detect and combat fraud. The programs were attended by more than 5,000 participants and are a key component in the Department’s ongoing work to partner with other agencies to fight fraud.
  • The Bureau expanded a program that puts our investigators in prosecutors’ offices to work side-by-side with their investigative staff. The initiative helps to ensure that our cases are given due consideration. Thus far, eight DAs’ Offices are involved in the program and several others have expressed interest.
  • In 2003 the State Court of Appeal’s decision upheld Regulation 68 which is an important anti-fraud measure that reduces the time limit for filing claims.

"The court’s decision is a victory for all hardworking premium-paying New York drivers. It is a substantial step forward in our fight against auto insurance fraud and abuse, and we anticipate that the effects of Regulation 68 will further stabilize the auto insurance marketplace in New York State," added Serio.

Insurance fraud victimizes every New Yorker, costing consumers billions of dollars in the form of increased insurance premiums and higher prices for goods and services. "Get Smart About Insurance Week" reminds us that there are several common-sense steps to take to help reduce fraud and minimize its impact:

Be an informed consumer - Don’t sign up for a type of policy or certain coverages that you are not sure you need. Take time to decide what’s right for you. Read your policy carefully before you sign. If you have questions, ask your agent or broker, or your insurer or contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau.

Know Your Agent or Broker. Deal only with licensed agents and brokers. Agents and brokers must carry proof of licensure.

Get Proof of Payment for Coverage. Pay your premium by check or a money order made out to the insurance company directly or to the agency—not to the individual agent or broker. Additionally, always request a receipt.

Get A Copy of Your Policy. You should receive a copy of any type of insurance policy. If you do not receive it and your agent/broker does not provide a satisfactory explanation, contact the Insurance Department immediately. You may not have the insurance coverage you paid for.

Become educated on the different forms of insurance fraud. The Frauds Bureau 2003 Annual Report is a good resource to utilize to become educated about types of insurance fraud. Knowing what fraud schemes exist enables you to best protect yourself from falling victim to the crime of insurance fraud.

Report fraud. If you suspect insurance fraud, you can report it to the New York State Insurance Department Frauds Bureau by calling the Frauds Bureau hotline at 1-888-FRAUD NY or submit a frauds report in writing. The form is available on the Department’s Web site at www.ins.state.ny.us. All such matters are kept confidential.

A copy of the Insurance Frauds Annual Bureau’s Report is available on the Department’s Web site www.ins.state.ny.us or by calling 1-800-342-3736 to request a copy.

The New York State Insurance Department is participating in the national "Get Smart About Insurance Week" campaign, sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to remind New Yorkers of the importance of proper insurance coverage. For more information on "Get Smart About Insurance Week," to request a consumer brochure and get information about what they need and should expect from insurance coverage, consumers can call the New York State Insurance Department’s toll-free hotline 1-800-342-3736 or visit the Department’s Web site at www.ins.state.ny.us. Additionally, consumers can visit www.healthyny.com for information on Healthy NY or www.captivesny.com for information on corporate self-insurance programs.

 

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