During tough economic times, anecdotal evidence of a surge in suspicious claims is easy to come by. Now, new data from the Des Plaines, Il.-based National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) backs it up.

Indeed, for the first half of 2009, NICB data shows increases in nearly all referral categories compared with the first half of 2008.

“While there has been modest improvement within a few categories of referrals, the overall number of questionable claims for the first half of 2009 is 13% higher than it was at this time last year,” Joe Wehrle, NICB president and CEO, said in a statement.  

Specifically, a total of 41,619 “questionable claims” were referred to NICB for closer review and investigation by member insurance companies in the first half of 2009, compared with 36,743 received during the same period a year earlier.  

While the NICB data encompasses property/casualty, commercial and vehicle data, the most pronounced surge occurred in auto claims, as suspicious car fires were up 20% from last year, suspicious auto glass claims up 76% and “phantom” accidents were up 46%.

On the casualty side, the biggest gain was seen in “slip and fall” accidents, which rose 47%.

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