When Going Gets Tough, Set Your Car on Fire

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Yeah, those long-term financing deals were great when times were good, but with folks losing their jobs and home values dropping, some people are reporting their cars stolen, then collecting insurance money to pay off the loan balance. The trend has been on the rise since 2007, when gas prices spiked.

According to the WSJ, police have reported an increasing number of cars dumped in the Great Lakes, burned along remote New Jersey roadsides and driven into canals in California. Las Vegas — the nation’s leader in auto theft — has tow yards filled with the charred remains of luxury vehicles.

There are about 100 suspected insurance fraud schemes a week in Clark Country, which includes Las Vegas. Last year, helicopters discovered burning car remains in the Clark Country desert 398 times.

Because insurance fraud rarely leads to arrest, Las Vegas has set up a fast-acting auto-theft police unit that uses SUVs and helicopters to hunt down suspected arsonists as quickly as possible. Sgt. Will Hutchings, a member of the theft unit, says they find people “with singed eyebrows and hands” and that “some of them still smell like gas.”

So remember, folks, if you lose your job and have a huge auto loan to deal with, don’t set your car on fire unless you have at least a working knowledge of how fire works: Remember to back away from the flames.

Better yet, take the hit on your credit score and let the bank repo the car. Remember, defaulting on your car loan is one thing; committing insurance fraud is another.

Signs of Stress, Fraud on Roadside (WSJ)

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