Insurance fraud is a major problem and it is no different in auto theft claims. There are as many financial motivations as there are reported thefts. The problem though is these claims are not based on their own merits, and it is far easier to target all insured’s with the same brush.
The insurance fraud investigation that the investigator is doing applies an element of fraud in the investigation that gives the company a great advantage over the insured. In my view, insurance companies have basardized the facts with assumption and speculation perceived to be fact.
Also known as preponderance of the evidence!
In order for the auto theft investigation to proceed the investigator needs an expet to determine as to how the reported stolen vehicle was last driven.
The investigator goes to the company’s vendor list and hire a Certified Forensic Locksmith. Does this mean he is licensed by any state entity as an expert in auto theft or forensic locksmithing? No! It only means that he paid to be a member of an association and that he took a test, which then awarded him a certificate. In the case of CFL however, the certificate should come into question because the certifying entity the IAIL (International Association of Investigative Locksmiths) no longer exists and it hasn’t for years-www.iail.org.
What purportedly seperates the experience from a forensic locksmith over that of an ordinary locksmith?
A CFL by description has the ability to apply his knowledge as that of a locksmith to disassemble an ignition lock, examine the components under a microscope and compare identifiable tool marks from the supplied keys to the tumblers. He has the ability to memorialize his findings by photos taken from the microscope which are included in a report for his client the insurance investigator. He alledgedly attempts to eliminate hypothese related to a thief driving the vehicle as compared to the insured that has a key for the vehicle.
Other duties are to be called to do depositions and to testify in court.
For those not aware if you have an auto theft claim, the insurance company has rigged the game against you!
I was a contributor for the Insure.com in the 90s. This article that I contributed to was introduced about 1999 and still holds true and the insured would be well off reviewing it.
This is truly a scientific process that has been played hundreds of thousands of times throughout the US and Canada. It is a game for the insured known as “You Can’t Win!”
The investigation questions have been sanitized and sanitized again. So much so, it is almost robotic for the claims handler and the investigator. Yet, how many times has the insured been under a special Investigation on his/hers reported stolen vehicle? Once?
It is extremely common from my over 20 years of experience to hear the standard answer from an attorney that took one of these cases. I would ask as to how many auto theft claim denial cases have they handled. The usual answer is “This is my first one.”
OK, lets look at the odds here. You as the inured have never been through an investigation with the carriers ultimate denial. The attorney has his/hers first case of this type. You are up against a process that has been used hundreds of thousands of times throughout all carriers across the US and Canada. What is your teams odds at prevailing?
How many of these claims have I been involved for the insurance companies and against the insurance companies? Thousands!
What do I know about the auto theft investigation process? Please keep in mind, I am learning everyday, but I am highly profficient in the investigation process, including the questions asked of the insured and the correct way to answer them, not the way the average insured would attemp to. After all, they are innocent and have nothing to hide. Actually, the investigator really appreciates this attitude, because it assists them in building their case of denial.
Now, I am not a lawyer and I never give legal advice, however I share my experiences from these investigations and the one thing the insured is not told in a civil situation such as this, where it is required known as Miranda rights when being charged criminally. That is everthing you say will be used against you!
Let’s say that when you give your recorded statement, the estimate that the vehicle was found missing was about 7 pm. You state that in your recorded statement. Over the week you were talking t some friends and you realize that you didn’t notice the vehicle missing at 7 pm because you were with them until 9 pm. You contact the insurance company to correct the record. No big deal right? To the insurance company, you have just lied to them! It’s very difficult to change any statement, because no matter what you are told that they want to pay the claim, blah, blah, blah, it’s a lie, because the investigator’s work performance is graded on how many investigations they do, and better yet, how much money they saved their employer by denying a claim!
So, from the very begining, the insured is looked at as dishonest. Now, what would make me say that? Investigators are commonly indoctrinated that all theft claims are bogus. Some are fraudulent, while others are not, but the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is mainly comprised of ex-cops that believe no one! THe vehicle reported stolen is equipped with an anti-theft transponder system making the vehicle unstealable. Since deemed unstealable, the theft claim by default now enters into a fraud investigation.
The burden of proof is on the carrier, but not the reasonable doubt threshold or clear and convincing threshold. In civil cases they are required to meet the very flimsy threshold of preponderance. This means that inuendo and assumption are used to make it appear as though the insured submitted a fraudulent claim. It does not mean they have to prove it was a fraudulent claim.
Motive: Many insureds will ask themselves or the attorney in which you are suing the insurance company, where is the motive?
The motive is based on the wild imagination of the investigator. Remember that credit card or car payment 6 months ago there was a dispute as to whether it was paid on time or not? Well, there is your motive! You needed the cash the insurance company was going to give you for your totalled vehicle!
The only problem (unimportant detail for court) that you the insured was not going to be the benificiary, the lien holder was! It sounds better with the insurance defense attorney telling the jury the insured would get the cash for the vehicle, because this plays into their motive!
Possibly, when you were purchasing your vehicle, the finance department at the dealer stated that you needed to get gap coverage for an extra charge. Most insureds when buying a vehicle, especially when new are so excited to get it, they barely pay attention to what the finance manager is hitting them for. Just so you are aware, in California some finance mangers make up to $60-$70,000 PER MONTH! They are the ones that will sell you “spiffs” like extended warranties, after market accessories, and gap insurance.
Gap insurance is very common because the dealers rip people off on their trades when the current vehicle they owe more than the vehicle is worth. The gap covers the difference between the actual cash value of the vehicle and what is owed on the vehicle. Gap insurance to an investigator is a red flag, because it is figured the insured did not want the vehicle anymore and can walk away from the debt free and clear.
Other red flags are if the vehicle is only missing for a short period of time, recovered in close proximity of the theft scene or recovered burned, these are huge red flags.
If no broken glass is found at the scene, the insured must be lying about the theft if it was lacked as the insured stated. I love using this analogy- A locksmith has to get into the locked vehicle quickly. How many times do you think a locksmith throws a brick through the glass to enter a locked vehicle?
What the investigator is doing is taking a negative view on the theft claim. Where insureds get into real trouble is trying to defend themselves, and no a lawyer cannot protect you. This is not a trial and the lawyer has no standing. Besides, insurance companies are not intimidated by lawyers, because they have their lawyers dealing with insureds lawyers every day!
The insured is in a hole and they keep digging, commonly they think they can get the claim to settle. If that were true, you wouldn’t be under investigation. So often, the insured and sometimes their attorney screw these investigations up so bad, no one can help them!
I consult the insured through the claim including when they are required to give sworn testimony. We have hundreds of hours of sworn testimony up against some of the most ruthless and unprofessional lawyers out there. We have survived, but we also learned a lot, with no one but ourselves learning.
Over 90% of the claims that were scheduled for denial, we got paid!
We will be adding to this page, so stop by frequently.
Posted by Rob Painterfirstname.lastname@example.org
Stolen Vehicle Claim Denied? Insurance Fraud or Insurer Fraud. Are Automotive Forensics on a Car Theft Claim Just a Fraud?
Blatant ignorance fuels the Forensic locksmithing profession by design. The less you know and the more assumptions you use thinking the Forensic Locksmith knows about car theft, the more disadvantaged you are at falling for this scam that has permeated throughout our court system for years with lies and half-truths.
Key of the proper type being last used is a catchall that no forensic science is required to solve. The unknowing believe because the Certified Forensic Locksmith makes this claim, the last key used was the insured’s in the reported stolen vehicle. This conclusion means they have no clue and they know the jury and the opposing attorney will assume these three little words mean the expert through experience training and background had determined the insured’s key was last used it the ignition.
What is the error rate in using the conclusion key of the proper type? 0 or 100% if the ignition lock cylinder is not damaged, key of the proper type fits. Was it the insured’s key? Maybe. Was it a thief’s key? Maybe. Was it a newly cut key? Maybe. The conclusion fits all scenarios, but what it does not do is specify the exact key last used. To infer the key(s) tested were the last key used to drive the reported stolen, and insinuating the insured’s key was last used to link them to the theft is junk science!
The only way with 100% certainty one can state the last key used, is that it has to be found in the ignition lock at the time of the exam!
OK, what about tool mark determination? Marks caused from picking, newly cut keys. These marks are subjective. There is assumption portrayed as fact that the use of a newly cut key will leave marks in the ignition lock. The assumption is that rough edges will be a newly cut key. If the locksmith or thief does not want binding, they are going to smooth out those rough edges.
Is a Certified Forensic Locksmith Really Qualified Under Federal Rules of Daubert When it Comes to Rendering a Conclusion About the Last Key Used In the Ignition?
For close to 20 years the Certified Forensic Locksmith (CFL) has been qualified to render an ambiguous general conclusion that the reported stolen vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. To the courts, this conclusion commonly went without question with the assumption that key of the proper type was the insured’s. Over the years, thousands of these claims report conclusions by the CFL went undisputed when a plaintiff attorney or criminal defense attorney did not have an expert to refute these outlandish conclusions!
The first problem:
- It is assumed that the expert with the CFL title used a standardized examination protocol of the ignition or vehicle to arrive to this so called “Scientific” conclusion that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. In reality, this conclusion is a one size fits all generic conclusion, which means there was no internal damage to the ignition lock cylinder. This conclusion does not require someone with any technical training to reach. This only means the examiner had stuck a key in the ignition lock and rotated it to the ON position. Something that just about anyone over the age of 10 knows how to do that ever rode in a vehicle, watching the driver perform to start the engine! Or, if the CFL didn’t have keys for the ignition lock at the time of the exam, would peer into the keyway with a lighted and magnified scope and observe no damage to the inside of the ignition lock cylinder. This too, does not require great technical expertise and anyone trained what to look for in about 10 minutes would know how to discern damaged from non-damaged! Yet, because the CFL advertises that he is a forensic scientist, he can testify that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type!
- The problem is that these experts meet the Daubert standard because of ignorance> No, I am not calling judges stupid. I am just saying that they can’t be knowledgeable on every subject and there is simply no enough time for the court to realize that they are being played.
In a Vior Dire, the expert is questioned on how long he has been a locksmith. Since he has been a locksmith for over a decade or longer, he is qualified by the court as a very experienced locksmith. When questioned about his training and experience as a certified forensic locksmith, he will revert to stating he had taken investigation locksmith course and that he took a test to become a certified forensic locksmith. The problem with this is that this does not give the CFL the experience needed in auto theft, yet the judge will qualify him on being able to tell the difference from a legitimate theft and an owner give up. All by examining the ignition!
- There are some throughout the country that use very questionable examination techniques, and there are those that use a pre-prepared report in which all they need to do is change the personal information and the type of vehicle and their report with its pre-determined conclusion is ready to go in minutes!
The questionable, common sense can be applied. One would think standards are applied in every examination. If you are removing the ignition on one vehicle, disassembling it to perform a microscopic examination internal components, it would be assumed that the next vehicle and the next vehicle are handled the same way. If one vehicle is subject to an electronic interrogation of the vehicle’s computer system to determine how many transponder keys are programmed for the vehicle, it would be assumed that each examination requires this.
If the key depths are determined, then one would think that all vehicles are subject to the key examination.
Here is the issue—In forensics, it is required that all true science to be applied is that the exam be performed so that it can be replicated by any other forensic examiner in the field of auto theft and forensics. Currently, because there is no scientific methodology employed on each vehicle, the process used by the CFL is not scientific. This is why they use the generic conclusion of key of the proper type. If this was truly scientific as in once was, a specific key being last used in the ignition would be stated. Was it determined if the vehicle was driven last with the first key, the insured’s second key, a thief’s key? These forensic examiners clearly don’t know and key of the proper type fits in every claim in which the ignition lock was not damaged internally.
If the ignition lock is damaged, it is easy to say that the vehicle was not successfully compromised. Now think about it, a professional thief is experienced, but without catching him, the unfounded motives cannot be stated as fact as they currently are. Motives like a thief would not burn a vehicle, because the valuable parts are not removed and that would be like burning money to a thief! The very first thought that comes to me on this story, is what if something went wrong in the thief’s plans? Burn the vehicle to conceal DNA and finger prints is a good real life answer to that!
The vehicle may have been parked in a gang infested area to cool off because the thief suspected the vehicle had a tracking system like Lojack installed. This is commonly done and the thief waits 24 hours or so to pick up the car since cops didn’t find it. It is very common for gang initiation to set cars on fire. Instead, assumed fact is used to say the insureds was responsible for the burn in order to total the vehicle and get an insurance check to pay for the vehicle.
Then we need to consider what fire background does the forensic locksmith have. The ignition lock components are commonly transformed and is in no condition for a forensic locksmith to render a conclusion on the last key used unless he reverts to stating the last key used was a key of the proper type. While this statement may be true, it does not specify the exact key last used. It is assumed as a fact, that the last key used was the insured’s, yet it is not proven scientifically if the last key used was the insured’s first key, second key, or a thief’s key! Key of the proper type is not a scientific conclusion. It is merely a general statement used to accuse the insured of being the last person to drive the vehicle. In essence, what we have here is people titling themselves as “Forensic” that apply no replicatable scientific methods to reach these conclusions! Because the courts are ignorant on these matters including the attorneys, these guys have gotten away with their unfounded conclusions due to this ignorance! I am very successful in refuting the misrepresentation by these forensic locksmiths nationwide.
I show that these forensic locksmiths should be questioned with a high degree of scrutiny because most times they supply a generic conclusion that required no scientific methodology. The CFL holds himself above other, yet a regular locksmith could make the conclusion that a reported stolen vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. How can that be? The ignition lock is not broken, tampered with and the key rotates the ignition lock.
We will put this in an analogy that even attorneys can understand. The expert is an active locksmith as well as making determinations on reported stolen vehicles for the insurance companies. The CFL is dispatched to a lock out. The owner has lost their keys. The CFL arrives at the vehicle and has opened the locked car in less than a minute, doing no damage to the door lock, the weather stripping around the door or he will be sued for doing such damage. Yet as a CFL when examining a reported stolen, he concludes there is no signs of forced entry, causing question to the insured’s statement the vehicle was stolen. The CFL generates a new ignition key and depending on the vehicle and the programmer used, the CFL can generate a new transponder key in 12 minutes and a Ford in 10 minutes, just as an example. The new key is tried and it starts the engine. What is the name of the key the locksmith just made? It would be known as the key of the PROPER TYPE!
Is that the owner’s key? No, that key was lost! There is also assumptive reasoning when it comes to tool marks on new keys and what they do to the ignition lock. It is said that the recent use of a newly cut key can be ruled out because it would leave marks in the tumblers (wafers that don’t tumble in most automotive locks). This conclusion is not scientist but speculative. A good locksmith will remove all the burrs from a new key (Known as Buffing) before inserting the key into the ignition, so such marks from the use of a newly cut key may even be there!
Last Key Used
This again is all hyped and the truth of the matter is last key used unless using the generic statement that the ignition was last rotated with a key of the proper type is employed. Last key used is expected from these CFLs to be exacting like the first, second or thief’s key. Since the exact specific last key used can almost never can be determined, and since key of the proper type is not scientific, then why do CFLs get away insinuating the last key used was the insured’s? The highly questionable “Forensic” title that they use. In the court system, it is assumed that all forensics requires college degreed people or at least that they have used scientific methods to reach their conclusions based on a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. Even though the CFL states such in their report, where is the scientific certainty in offering a generic conclusion that can fit any circumstance no matter the methodology employed?
Some of these Expert Forensic Locksmiths get even more ludicrous
There is the phenomena of determining the last key used without physical evidence. How can that be a valid scientific conclusion? That accentuates to point as to how bogus key of the proper type is.
A vehicle is reported stolen. It remains unrecovered. The expert never turns down an assignment. He will take the case! His report addresses the type of anti-theft system as to the description and operation theory as taken directly out of the factory service manual. The purpose is to make it appear as to how difficult the vehicle would be to steal. In order to address this, they will describe the expense of key programming equipment as they do in other reports, as if this is required to steal one specific vehicle. What they don’t address is that if a relatively cheap aftermarket programmer is purchased assuming the thief didn’t steal it, in the case of GM, will be able to make keys for all GM vehicles depending on the software. The same holds true for Ford, Chrysler etc. There are programmers that can program keys for multiple makes and models!
In court, the CFL may state it would cost $6,000 to make a key for a specific vehicle, but this is a highly over inflated price and it is already addressed as to how economical it is for a thief with an aftermarket programmer. There is a Chinse version of a programmer that can make transponder keys for Fords, Hondas and many other vehicles available to anyone on the Internet for $125.00!
My machine I bought for BMWs and some Mercedes cost me $350.00 in 2012! I could make my own Smart key for a BMW! Since, the product has gotten even more versatile and easy to use.
The forensic locksmith will go on about the security of the ignition lock in the unrecovered reported stolen vehicle. As to the conclusion on an unrecovered reported stolen vehicle, it just happens to be that it was last driven with a key of the proper type! All this without examining the vehicle for forced entry! The ignition lock cannot be examined by the expert and in some cases, the keys were lost in the mail and could not be examined. The vehicle’s computer cannot be interrogated and the vehicle could not be examined, but the expert knows the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type! These denied claims actually go to court!
Here is a very germane question then: If the forensic locksmith expert has the ability to determine as to how an unrecovered stolen vehicle was last driven, then why bother performing physical examinations on locks and keys? Why bother if the predetermined canned answer of the key of the proper type being last used?
Is it only for the purpose of having some reports filled with photos for occasional credibility?
The forensic locksmith knows that the jury will take his testimony like gold, because after all, his title is “Forensic.”
More Nonsense From Different CFLs
Since the courts hold these experts in such high regard, it is assumed that proven scientific methods are employed. Let’s take the recent criminal case on the East coast.
The CFL, describes the key cuts and match them to the factory specifications for the vehicle. He examines the keys, noting that one is missing. He states in the report he has one primary, and one valet key, meaning the second primary key is unaccounted for. He states that the vehicle can have up to 5 keys programmed for it. He goes to extensive length to examine the keys at 10 and 30x magnifications for tool marks consistent with key duplication efforts. The conclusion to his report is that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. OK, but here is a major problem and illustrates the fraud that key of the proper type is: The premise for the CFL is to examine the keys and compare to the ignition lock cylinder for identifiable tool marks. After all, the key mates with the ignition lock for the vehicle. No one can question that. Yet, when the other half of this examination duo went to the vehicle, here is your super forensic examination of the ignition lock. He inserted the key into the ignition lock and rotated it. He never removed the ignition lock to perform a microscopic examination on it. The transponder system could no be interrogated due to fire damage. The factory security system could not be checked! Yet, this half shod forensic examination was used in a criminal case to accuse the insured of fraud!
© Copyright 2017 Rob Painter. All Rights Reserved.
AUTO THEFT CLAIMS MASTER
Posted by Rob
I am an expert witness in auto theft & forensic locksmithing. I also am an expert in Vehicle fire origin and cause. I have qualified as an expert in 23 states, federal court numerous times in criminal and civil areas.
This information is for attorneys across the nation opposing these experts.
Denied Stolen Vehicle Claims or Insurance Fraud Cases–1-866-490-1673
It is very common to see auto theft claims denied and they are based around the forensic locksmith’s conclusion inferring the vehicle was last driven with the insured’s key. I am an expert in tihs area. I am also an expert in the insurance investigation process either denying these claims or used by the prosecution with over 20 years experience.
As an expert in forensic locksmithing and auto theft. Currently looking for cases in the DC, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Florida in which Robert Mangine’s company North American Automotive Forensic Consultants serving as Expert Witness Service for insurance companies and the prosecution.
I am not only an expert on the processes of forensics in these cases, being a long time instructor on the subject. I am also an expert on forensic locksmith companies having many of their reports for comparison illustrating that different methodologies are applied, yet the conclusion is exactly the same. This is not scientifically plausible, unless the conclusion is just a generic one size fits all, which then could be argued as misdirection.
- I have been extremely effective refuting these firms!
Ohio and Midwest A-1 Forensic
Mark Ames of A-1 Forensics Based in Toledo, Ohio.
Serves Ohio and Midwest as a Forensic Locksmith with Ryan Ames.
Plaintiff and Criminal Defense Attorneys, if you are opposing these guys, you need me!
They serve Erie, Progressive, American Family, Grange and many other insurance carriers.
My trial prevailing side score against Mark Ames is about 10 for 10. Tactical advantage-I have been the instructor of Frensic Locksmithing for close to 20 years. I have commonly written on it. Designed a 1,350+ slide training program vetted by the FBI and the US Army Crime Lab in Georgia. Not only do I know the subject far better, but I have reviewed over 100 of A-1 Forensics reports and designed a spreadsheet for examination standards that there has been no effort by this firm to follow. In other words, an ignition lock may be removed, disassembled and examined on one vehicle. Yet, the next 5 there is no attempt to apply this process. On a transponder vehicle, the transponder system may be electronically interrogated. The next 10 aren’t. There is no rhyme or reason and one then needs wonder as to how conclusions are the same from vehicle to vehicle!
This firm examines reported stolen vehicles that are recovered burned, but to my knowledge neither Mark or Ryan have ever had a fire and explosion certification or a vehicle fire investigation certificate. They are locksmiths and Forensic Locksmiths.
I can successfully refute them with my background in auto theft and forensic locksmithing! I base that statement on a reasonable degree of scientific certainty!
Another interesting phenomena about this firw, is they don’t even need a vehicle to determine how it was last driven! Not recovered-they must use the physic friends network for their conclusions!
There is a company in California operating as North American West. The Forensic Expert is Chad Tredway.
He examines vehicles that have been reported stolen and applies his magical forensic process to the igntion. When he bought the company from Robert Mangine years ago, also included was the cookie cutter reports he uses. These are premade reports in which, only the specific detals have to be changed! This expert has never been a locksmith, nor has he been an auto tech, and has never been involved in the repair of theft recovered vehicles. Yet! He determines as to how a reported stolen vehicle was last driven without the use of science!
New Jersey-Sterling Investigations
Here you will find Ken Vitty and Glen Hennings as a tag team. Both claim to be Certified Forensic Locksmiths and have fire training. Their testing and conclusions appear to be real professional to the novice that knows nothing about forensic locksmithing and auto theft. However they can be scrutinized and the smoke and mirrors is evident to a professional.
Hennings examines the vehicles. Vitty does the microscopic analysis.
This firm services NYC and NJ and we are looking for cases against them!
George Plackey of PDQ Forensics is another forensic locksmith, with no fire certifications that examines reported stolen, recovered burned vehicles.
He also examines recovered thefts and offers reports inferring insured involvement.
He claims he can determine tool marks because he has been a locksmith for over 20 years. He covers the Chicago Metro area almost exclusively for all insurance companies. My Chicago guy can refute him rather well!
Another forensic locksmith that examines reported stolen vehicles for insurance companies for the purpose of inferring the vehicle was last driven with the insured’s key.
The last case I had against him was a total burned Toyota. He staed he could not determine anything with the steering column because of the fire damage. He claimed he did not recver the ignition.
He then stated that the vehicle couldn’t have been driven without the insureds key, because it was equipped from the factory with an anti theft transponder system.
He had no evidence to opine on. He was not aware my client had a after market remote start installed before the theft, there by any reference about the factory transponder was moot, because it was bypassed for the remote start.
This would have been a good lesson for S.D. Lyons that when all evidence is destroyed by fire to render the findings inconclusive.
However, for more than a decade, the insurance companies have used unvetted (No check to see if their conclusions are scientifically valid) independent forensic locksmiths as a straw man. The investigator can and does say “We had the ignition examined by an independent forensic locksmith” who in essence, to keep assignments rolling in, is going to write a report favoring their client, not the insured.
People lose their jobs and licenses because of these questionable accusations! The investigator looks good though, because when they are done they have dreamed up the financial motivation needed to deny the claim!
Some insurance companies pay the SIU (Special Investigation Unit) bonuses at the end of the year. Say the insurance company did not have to pay $30 million in claims that year. The SIU Department might get a bonus check for $10,000. Sometimes that is divided up by the investigators. I am not saying this practice is common, but I am not saying that it isn’t. I don’t know. I can say I have been involved in cases that did occur!
These auto theft fraud cases are built around the forensic report from the investigator’s hand picked expert! Then a case of financial motivation is manufactured wth the investigators imagination, and the claim is denied accusing the insured of misrepresentation.
Yes, fraud is a very serious problem, but I have demonstrated that all misrepresentation is not always from the insured.