Shannon Navejas, special investigator 2 with Mercury Insurance, shares how a claim for a 2000 collector edition Ferrari valued at $188,000 went up in smoke as a result of a thorough investigation which included the use of background checks, a DMV history and internet searches.
Earlier this year, the named insured filed a claim and reported that a 2000 Ferrari, which he claimed was a rental, was involved in a fire loss. The loss was reported about a month after the fire.
Navejas explained that the insured, who reported the loss by phone, said that he had rented the car for the day and while driving on a highway in Northern California the vehicle caught fire.
An adjuster initially assigned to the claim obtained a recorded statement in which the insured explained that he rented the vehicle on Valentine’s Day to take his girlfriend for a ride to the horse races.
“With rental cars most people don’t have a lot of answers because they don’t know things like registered owner, aftermarket parts on the car and specific details of the car itself,” Navejas said.
As the interview progressed and became more detailed, the insured cut the interview short and stopped responding to Mercury’s request for information.
Deemed a total loss, the value placed on the vehicle was $188,000.
Though the insured provided a receipt for the rental which indicated the car was rented February 14, 2016, the rental agency never responded to the insurer’s inquiries.
Navejas said that a California Department of Motor Vehicles history report showed that the registered owner was not the rental agency.
“The name of the registered owner was a company that did not match the rental agency name that we were given. It also was put to a P.O. box address which was very similar to the P.O. box address we had for our insured so that kind of got us on the track that maybe our insured had a little more involvement with this car then renting it for just the day,” said Navejas.
It was suspected the insured was somehow the owner of the vehicle and it was not rented as he claimed. At this stage in the investigation, the file was sent to Mercury’s special investigations unit and assigned to Navejas for further investigation.
An ISO search revealed an open claim for a vehicle fire loss with the same car on the same date of loss. The named insured didn’t inform the Mercury adjuster of this other open claim with a major insurer. The SIU investigator informed Navejas that the insured had a personal policy with the Ferrari listed as an owned vehicle. Because the policy expired just before the loss occurred, the claim was denied. The named insured hired an attorney, resulting in the reopening of their claim.
Navejas said there were a number of tools and databases used to investigate the claim, including ISO ClaimSearch, LexisNexis and CARFAX.
An internet search revealed that the insured had registered for a website using the same company name as the company named on the DMV registration.
The CARFAX report revealed the repair history of the vehicle, leading to Navejas confirming that the insured had brought in the vehicle for two recent repairs completed at an auto body shop near the insured’s home.
Based on the little over two-month investigation, Mercury determined that the named insured owned this vehicle and was consigning it out to the rental agency.
The investigator contacted the insured with the results of its investigation. When asked if he was still pursuing the loss with Mercury, the insured advised he is withdrawing his claim and pursing the claim with the other insurer. He then explained that he had a longterm rental of this car and had rented it a month prior to the loss. This didn’t correlate to the rental invoice which showed the rental date on the date of loss and it was supposed to be returned on the following day.
The fraud division of the California Department of Insurance was notified of the questionable nature of the claim, including the apparent false rental receipt. Their investigation is ongoing.