• Oct 14, 2008
Vehicle owners behind in their payments and faced with mounting debts have begun taking matches to their cars and trucks in an effort to stop their payments and collect the insurance settlements. Unfortunately, in most cases the attempts backfire (pun intended). According to police, when delinquencies on auto loans rise, owner-involved arson jumps as well. Between 2004 and 2007, "potential owner give-ups" (most of which involve torched vehicles) nearly doubled nationally. Distinguishing between an actual theft-and-burn and an owner-induced arson is the job of investigators who often find such cases easy to crack.
For example, recently a pair of Chrysler Pacificas were burned and it just so happens that that particular model was only reported stolen 98 times across the nation this year – the so-called "theft" raised more than a few eyebrows at headquarters. In another case, a Yukon owner claimed his truck was stolen and burned overnight. Police knew that the thief likely had the keys (Yukons are especially difficult to hot-wire) so their focus was immediately turned towards the owner who had conveniently left "two cans of gasoline" in the back. In yet another case, the late-paying owners had significantly lowered their deductible just days before the reported theft.

Over their heads in debt, fraudulent owners choose arson because the burned-out vehicle shells are often found immediately by authorities, and the insurance companies settle and disburse payments quickly. That is, assuming they haven't fallen behind on their insurance bills as well! Thanks for the tip, Ben!

[Source: Washington Post, photo by Maryland State Fire Marshall]




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  • 14 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wish someone would torch my car... So much simpler than selling it in a bad market.

      _>
      • 6 Years Ago
      Speaking as a member of the law enforcement community... we only catch the dumb ones.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yup, only the dumb ones get caught. I grew up in Puerto Rico and they just found a lot in the rain forrest about 5 years ago where people had been stashing cars for years. They found about 130 cars, the one that had been reported stolen the longest had been sitting there for 15 years, lol.
      • 6 Years Ago
      People have been doing this for years without getting caught. Hell, there is an alley here in DC where people basically "park" their cars and thieves come and "steal" them. That, or I've also heard of people who are arranging carjackings at lights so that there are witnesses to the fact that the dude was robbed at gunpoint.

      I've also heard of people who just give the car to a chop shop and then report it stolen, only to never be found again.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What a bunch of dummies. It is only a matter of time before the Dems create another bailout package to help car buyers keep their vehicles. In anticipation of this upcoming scam I am going to purchase a Ferrari F430 from the local dealer and just bide my time until the Govt check rolls in................
        • 6 Years Ago
        @jsjs
        No, McCain just SAID the mortgage buyout was his idea in the debate. I idea was already written into the bailout legislation and Obama endorsed a similar concept weeks earlier.

        It's sad that we don't have a media that actually checks the candidates' words against reality. At least we have FactCheck.org and similar.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I could swear I watched our President give a speech telling us how we needed to go forward with this bail out plan.

        Or are you saying Bush is now a Democrat?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Last time I checked, it was McCain's plan to buy back bad mortgages directly from the consumers, and then renegotiate at a new value to convert into a fixed mortgage. I must say, your plan sounds closer to what he might propose than anything I've heard out of the "other one."
        • 6 Years Ago
        Uhh, it was McCain's good bud and economic "guru", Phil Gramm that got us into this mess (as well as the dot.com bubble, Enron and the oil bubble) by leading the charge for DEREGULATION of banking/finance and of the commodities market.

        Gramm's wife served on the Board of Enron and Gramm was Vice Chairman of UBS (UBS, btw, also helped the super-wealthy cheat the IRS by hiding their assets overseas).

        As for the bailout, I don't like it, but it probably was necessary. Without it, we likely would be seeing a long-term recession like Japan did in the 1990s when the govt. didn't do much to counteract the stop in lending btwn banks/businesses.



        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow... just wow...
        • 6 Years Ago
        with a name like bubba who would have suspected his agenda?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Here in S Florida, we don't torch cars, we accidentally park them in canals. Just make sure you tear the column apart, because they find these things years later and go after the people when the cars have the keys in them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not surprising, the same thing has gone on with houses and failing businesses for years.

      Gee, a repo or a conviction for arson, which would I rather have?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why not just drive it into a tree at high speed? Maybe they'll do the world a favor and kill themselves in the process.
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