Category Archives: Theft

Piracy Is Still a Risk; Pandemic Hasn’t Helped

August is International Pirate Month – mainly, I suppose, because it’s fun to say “Arrrg-ust” like a Caribbean swashbuckler from the movies.  But many people outside the maritime and insurance industries don’t realize that piracy remains a costly peril in the 21st century – and, like so many other risks, it may have gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global insurer Zurich estimates the annual cost of piracy to the global economy at $12 billion a year and, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), global piracy and armed robbery numbers increased 20 percent in 2020. IMB PRC’s latest annual report lists 195 actual and attempted attacks in 2020, up from 162 in 2019. It attributes the rise to increasing incidents within the Gulf of Guinea in Africa, as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Strait.

In its Safety and Shipping Review 2021, global insurer Allianz says, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for over 95 percent of crew members kidnapped worldwide in 2020.

“Last year, 130 crew were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents in the region – the highest ever – and the problem has continued in 2021,” the report says. “Vessels are being targeted further away from the shore – over 200 nautical miles from land in some cases.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in this rise in pirate activity, as it is tied to underlying social, political, and economic problems.

The economic effects of the pandemic have been especially devastating in parts of the world where piracy tends to be a problem: job losses, negative growth rates, and increased poverty. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China is the only major economy projected to have a positive growth rate in 2020. The economies of most other countries have shrunk, some by more than 9 percent. Overall, the global economy likely shrank by at least 4 percent in 2020, and the World Bank expects an additional 150 million people have been pushed into poverty.

The economic costs of the pandemic have been particularly challenging for piracy-prone countries, and pre-COVID economic conditions in many of these places almost certainly means slower recoveries. 

“Pirates, criminals, and terrorists exploit poverty and desperation to seek recruits, gain support, and find shelter. To counter these threats, we need to raise awareness and educate people, especially youth, while providing alternative livelihoods and support for local businesses,” said Ghada Waly, Executive Director at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Pandemic’s impact on crews

Crew relief is essential to ensuring the safety and health of seafarers. Fatigued crew members make mistakes, and there are serious concerns for the next generation of seafarers. COVID-19 is affecting training, and the sector may struggle to attract new talent due to working conditions.

Reduced availability of well-trained crews could leave vessels more vulnerable as the global economy and international trade rebounds.

In March, the International Chamber of Shipping warned that lack of access to vaccinations for seafarers is placing shipping in a “legal minefield” and could cause disruption to supply chains from cancelled sailings and port delays.

“Vaccinations could soon become a compulsory requirement for work at sea because of reports that some states are insisting all crew be vaccinated as a precondition of entering their ports,” Allianz writes. “However, over half the global maritime workforce is currently sourced from developing nations, which could take many years to vaccinate. In addition, the vaccination of seafarers by shipping companies could also raise liability and insurance issues, including around mandatory vaccination and privacy issues.”

COVID-19’s confounding implications for international piracy were illustrated last month, when more than 80 percent of a South Korean anti-piracy unit serving a mission off the coast of Somalia were found to have tested positive and were airlifted out. South Korea’s defense ministry has said the unit left the country in February unvaccinated. The government has defended the decision, citing lack of vaccine availability at the time.

Learn More:

Insuring marine businesses and cargo

From the Triple-I Blog:

COVID-19 and shipping risk

Valuable metals make catalytic converters an attractive target for thieves

Huge spikes in catalytic converter theft have been reported throughout the nation in recent months. The anti-pollution devices contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium and can be removed from the bottom of a car or truck in as little as five minutes.

Thieves are getting anywhere from $50 to $250 per converter from recyclers, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and replacing the part can cost $900 or more.

In an effort to stem the thefts, the NICB has recently teamed up with several Virginia police departments to host catalytic converter etching events. During the events, mechanics etch and paint vehicle registration numbers onto the converters, which serves to track the parts if stolen.

Additional etching events are currently being scheduled in Virginia. The NICB encourages law enforcement across the nation to hold similar events to help combat catalytic converter theft.

Other theft prevention options include installing a steel shield that fits over the catalytic converter, requiring time and extra tools to remove the part; cages made of high-strength steel that’s difficult to cut; or stainless-steel cables welded from the catalytic converter to the car’s frame.

If your converter is stolen, the theft is covered by the optional comprehensive portion of your insurance policy in some cases. But you will be responsible for paying the deductible. If your deductible is $1,000 and the cost to repair the damage costs $1,000 or maybe a few hundred dollars more, you may not opt to file a claim.

Drivers are advised to contact their insurers to report the theft and determine the best course of action.

NICB: Motorcycle Thefts Declined in 2018

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Motorcycles are popular with riders seeking affordable transportation options and the thrill of the open road. But they can also be attractive targets for thieves. The good news is that motorcycle thefts saw a decline in 2017 and 2018 after an uptick in the previous two years.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) annual motorcycle thefts report, in 2018 motorcycle thefts were down by six percent with a total of 41,674 motorcycles reported stolen compared with 44,268 in 2017. About 44 percent of the motorcycles stolen in 2018 were recovered.

In general, motorcycle thefts are a seasonal crime related to warmer months, with 10 percent or more of thefts from the yearly total occurring in May, June, July, August, September, and October.

According to the report the top 10 states for motorcycle thefts in 2018 were:

  • California (7,035)
  • Florida (4,279)
  • Texas (3,073)
  • New York (1,777)
  • South Carolina (1,743)
  • North Carolina (1,466)
  • Indiana (1,229)
  • Missouri (1,194)
  • Georgia (1,174) and
  • Colorado (1,109)

The top 10 cities for motorcycle thefts in 2018 were:

  • New York (1,310)
  • Los Angeles (628)
  • Miami (595)
  • Las Vegas (540)
  • San Diego (527)
  • San Francisco (520)
  • Houston (460)
  • Philadelphia (404)
  • Austin (329) and
  • San Jose (322)

The top 10 most stolen motorcycles in 2018 by manufacturer were:

  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (8,260 thefts)
  • Yamaha Motor Corporation (6,655)
  • American Suzuki Motor Corporation (4,882)
  • Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (4,861)
  • Harley-Davidson, Inc. (4,769)
  • Taotao Group Co. Ltd (1,851)
  • KTM Sportmotorcycle AG (780)
  • Genuine Cycle (515)
  • Ducati Motor Holding (455)
  • Kymco U.S.A., Inc. (413)

The NICB offers the following fraud and theft prevention tips:

  •  Purchase your motorcycle from reputable manufacturers or dealers. When purchasing from a private party, avoid custom or “assembled vehicle.”
  • Take the motorcycle to a local dealership for inspection before purchasing.
  • When purchasing a motorcycle from a private party, consider investing in a vehicle history report. Also, go to your local law enforcement station to make the transaction. Many law enforcement agencies have “safe areas” to complete purchases between private parties.
  • When selling your bike, don’t turn over the title until the funds (check or money order) have cleared the bank.
  • Use common sense; park in well-lit areas, lock your ignition, and remove your keys.
  • Remove the key and lock your motorcycle even if stored in a garage. You may want to invest in additional aftermarket lock(s) and even a theft-deterrent system with tracking capabilities (e.g. GPS) for your motorcycle.
  • Don’t store your title in your motorcycle’s storage compartment.
  • Place unique markings on your motorcycle and take photos of them. If your bike is stolen, you can use these markings to identify your property.

The I.I.I. has Facts & Statistics on auto theft here.

Dodge Charger tops HLDI’s list of most likely to be stolen vehicles

The Dodge Charger HEMI and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are at the top of the Highway Loss Data Institute’s (HLDI) most-stolen vehicles list this year. Both cars have theft rates that are more than five times the average for 2016-18 models, with the same as the Infiniti Q50, a midsize luxury sedan.

HLDI released its most likely to be stolen list for 2016-2018 models today, and almost all 20 models with the highest theft rates either have big engines or are luxury vehicles or pickups.

At the top of the least stolen list is the two-wheel-drive BMW 3 series, a midsize luxury sedan. It had just one claim for whole-vehicle theft in 104,901 insured vehicle years (an insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year).

The Tesla Model S and Model X are also on the least-stolen list. A 2018 HLDI report showed that electric vehicles from a variety of manufacturers have lower theft claim rates than comparable vehicles. Their low theft rate may be due to the fact that they are usually parked in garages or close to a house to be near a power supply.

The Cadillac Escalade, which previously dominated HLDI’s rankings of most-stolen vehicles, is notably absent from this year’s list. Part of the reason is that there are more large luxury SUVs for thieves to choose from but also because Cadillac added enhanced security features beginning with the 2015 model year.

“The models most likely to be stolen tend to be powerful, pricey or pickups, but vehicle theft is also a crime of opportunity,” says HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore. “Better security features on all vehicles would be the best way to address the problem.”

 

Counterfeit wine does not lead to property insurance payout

The importance having a clear understanding of what your insurance policy does and does not cover was highlighted last week when several trade publications picked up a story about a wine collector who was sold about $18 million worth of counterfeit wine.

The collector had a property insurance policy, and when his claim was denied he sued for breach of contract. A California trial court upheld an earlier decision that the property policy simply does not cover fraud of the kind he experienced.

The judge’s opinion stated: “The plain language of the “PERILS INSURED AGAINST” provision makes it clear that the insurer was insuring against “direct and accidental loss . . . to covered property…” That is “against any losses to the wine not against any losses to the collector’s finances or to his unrealized expectations as to the value of the wine he had purchased.”

Auto theft projected to rise for the third consecutive year

The steady decline in auto thefts which started in 1991 is largely attributable to the rise of modern keys, fobs and ignitions, and the ubiquity of statewide anti-theft taskforces. But insurers are keeping an eye on the increase in auto thefts that occurred in 2015 and 2016 and which is projected to continue in 2017, according to a recent Risk Information newsletter.

Car owners have become complacent about theft, with 56 percent of Americans reporting that they rarely or never worry that their car will be stolen. In fact, car owners are getting so relaxed about theft that thousands of vehicles are stolen each year because keys or fobs are left in the vehicle, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Thieves are also constantly devising new and sophisticated means of stealing autos. Tactics include acquiring smart keys, switching vehicle identification numbers; and using stolen identities to secure loans for expensive vehicles.

Thieves also now have access to devices which search for signals from nearby wireless key fobs and use that signal to unlock and start cars. To counteract this trend a growing market has sprung up for boxes or pouches for key fobs especially designed to block radio transmissions. You can purchase one on Amazon.

The FBI estimates that the number of motor vehicle thefts increased 7.4 percent in 2016 over the prior year. Approximately $5.9 billion was lost nationwide to motor vehicle thefts in 2016 with the average dollar loss per stolen vehicle of $7,680.

The I.I.I. has Facts and Stats on auto theft here.

Cyber Monday online safety tips

Identity theft is the biggest threat consumers face when shopping online, according to security expert Dr. Yair Levy. Before venturing online for Cyber Monday deals, here are some tips from Dr. Levy which appeared in a recent Sun Sentinel article:

  • Use a dedicated credit card for online purchases and a separate card for to pay bills, buy gas, groceries, etc. If the card is compromised, it’s easy to cancel the account.
  • When making purchases, verify a secured connection by looking for a little padlock or by making sure the Web address starts with “https://” (the “s” stands for secured).
  • Don’t use free wi-fi on your mobile device.

Phishing scams are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated, so be wary of emails or texts claiming to be from your favorite retailer. The best defense is not to click on links in a message or give out any personal information. If the message is legitimate, you can always go directly to the retailer’s website.

For more on identity theft and cybercrime, visit our Facts & Stats page.

Three-year Decline in Metal Theft Claims

Good news for insurers. Latest data points to a promising decline in the national problem of metal theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

In a new report, the NICB notes that in just three years the number of metal theft insurance claims has declined by over 26 percent from 14,676 in 2011 to 10,807 in 2013.

The report reviews metal theft claims from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013.

During this period, 41,138 insurance claims for the theft of copper, bronze, brass or aluminum were handled – of which 39,976 (97 percent) were for copper alone.

The NICB notes that when the number of metal theft insurance claims per month and monthly average copper prices are compared, the number of claims filed is found to have a statistically significant correlation with the price of copper.

Tightening controls on the sale of scrap metal have had a positive impact in local communities, the NICB says.

Ohio still ranks first of all states generating 4,144 metal theft claims in 2013, followed by Texas (2,827), California (2,489), Pennsylvania (2,345) and Georgia (2,067).

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (1,725 claims) was the leading statistical area generating the most metal theft claims.

More on the link between copper prices and incidents of metal theft in this NICB video.

NICB: Heavy Equipment Theft a Costly Crime for Insurers

As mom to two young boys I’ve had to become familiar with construction vehicle terminology, such as backhoes, skid steers and excavators. So it’s with interest I read the latest heavy equipment theft report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The report, co-produced with the National Equipment Register (NER), analyzes heavy equipment theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and breaks out the data by theft state, theft city, theft month, equipment manufacturer, equipment style (type) and year of manufacture.

Here are some of the key takeaways of the 2012 NICB Heavy Equipment Theft report:

— A total of 10,925 heavy equipment thefts were reported to law enforcement in 2012, down 7 percent from the 11,705 reported in 2011. Since 2008, there has been an overall 19 percent reduction in heavy equipment thefts.

— The three most stolen heavy equipment items in 2012 were: mowers (riding or garden tractor: 5,363); loaders (skid steer, wheeled: 1,943); tractors (wheeled or tracked: 1,459).

— Heavy equipment manufactured by John Deere was the number one theft target in 2012, followed by Kubota Tractor Corp, Bobcat, Caterpillar and Toro.

— The top three states for heavy equipment thefts in 2012? Texas ranked first with 1,401 reported thefts, followed by North Carolina with 1,037 thefts, and Florida with 890 thefts.

The report also looks into heavy equipment recoveries in 2012 and here comes the sticker shock for insurers.

According to the NICB, only 20 percent of heavy equipment stolen in 2012 was found, making it a costly crime for insurance companies, equipment owners and rental agencies.

Bear in mind that annual estimates of the cost of equipment theft vary from around $300 million to $1 billion, with most estimates in the range of $400 million.

But, these estimates do not include the theft of tools or building materials or damage to equipment and premises caused during a theft, or losses from business interruption, such as the cost of rentals, project-delay penalties, and wasted workforce and management time.

The NICB says the area that needs the most improvement is also the one that promises immediate results: making accurate information available to law enforcement 24 hours a day.

It notes:

At a minimum, equipment owners should keep accurate lists of equipment with PIN/serial numbers and submit them to law enforcement, their insurers, and NER as soon they discover a theft. When they purchase equipment, owners should register serial numbers in the NER database, so that the information is available to law enforcement 24 hours a day. In the event of a theft, law enforcement can identify the equipment, even during weekends or at night.†

“Friendly Fraud” On the Rise

Identity fraud incidents declined significantly in the United States in 2010, but now is not the time to let your guard down.

So-called “friendly fraud” is “ fraud perpetrated by people known to the victim, such as a relative or roommate” grew seven percent last year, according to Javelin Research & Strategy’s recently released 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report.

People in the 25-34 age group are most likely to be victims of friendly fraud, mostly by having their Social Security number (SSN) stolen (41 percent).

The increase in friendly fraud is also contributing to a significant rise in consumer out-of-pocket costs.

While overall fraud declined in 2010, the mean consumer out-of-pocket cost due to identity fraud increased 63 percent from $387 in 2009 to $631 per incident in 2010, Javelin said.

The findings give us pause for thought.

Javelin’s advice? Keep personal data private and don’t overshare on social networks.

In 2010, 14 percent of all identity fraud crimes were committed by someone previously known to the victim when the method was known.

People also like to connect with friends and acquaintances on social networks, but sometimes they share too much information.

Javelin research found that 36 percent of people aged 65+ do not use the privacy settings on their network potentially exposing crucial information to fraudsters. (The good news is that 89 percent of 25-34 year olds were actively using the privacy settings on social network sites.)

As for overall fraud trends, in 2010 the number of identity fraud victims declined by 28 percent to 8.1 million adults in the U.S., three million fewer victims than the prior year. Total annual fraud dropped to $37 billion from $56 billion – the smallest amount in the eight years of the study.

Stepped-up prevention efforts by businesses, increased security measures and economic conditions contributed to the year-over-year decline, Javelin said.

Check out I.I.I. info on ID theft.