They're called owner "give-ups," and their rise is a sign of the tough economic times. Despondent over being financially strapped and unable to cover car payments, vehicle owners are ditching, sinking, or torching their vehicles and reporting the loss to collect insurance payoffs. According to authorities, most of the titleholders aren't seasoned criminals. In fact, many of the false claims are filed by first-time offenders -- people who normally wouldn't steal a piece of candy from a store. However, the desperate owners see insurance companies as "rich and fat," says James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Many think the insurance companies won't miss a few dollars.

Well, of course they will. Owner "give-up" cases result in felony charges of insurance fraud, making false statements to police and insurance providers, and arson if the car was burned. A better solution for cash-strapped owners, say experts, is to attempt to renegotiate payments, sell the car, or trade it in for a less expensive model. While you generally won't come out ahead, those transactions are legal and they'll keep you out of the slammer.

[Source: Detroit News | Image Source: Mark Dadswell/Getty]