Florida's fight against insurance fraud is thrust into the national spotlight as investigators reveal what it takes to crackdown on fake car crashes and phony injuries. The bogus insurance claims are costing you big bucks.
Undercover agents with Florida's Auto Fraud Squad spent more than a year embedded in a South Florida crime ring fraud scheme.
In "Operation Cold Call", investigators discovered a ring of attorneys, doctors and clinic employees allegedly recruiting, then paying "so called patients" for injuries they really never received in staged car crashes.
"Every person who walks through the door is worth $10,000 in insurance claims," says one investigator.
Tampa ranks right behind Orlando and Miami for the highest number of these fraudulent claims.
Florida's CFO, Jeff Atwater tells 10 News that the national spotlight on A&E's American Takedown reveals the scam that's costing auto insurance policy holders around a billion dollars a year in higher premiums for personal injury protection or PIP.
"There's been about a 40% increase in their auto insurance premiums just for the PIP portion of their insurance policy. That's what these families have been going through," says Atwater.
The scams are happening all over the state. Investigators recently busted Integrated Healing Clinic on Florida Avenue in Tampa arresting 7 people. Investigators say the office manager paid phony car crash victims up to $2,000 each, then billed insurance companies up to the maximum $10,000 claim for treatment that never happened.
"It's a huge rip off," Atwater says.
Atwater says since the state has started cracking down, for the first time in six years, you should start to see your auto insurance premium going down.
"This won't be tolerated. The hard-working people at home should be saying--thankfully--finally someone has gone after these scammers," Atwater says.
Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded $349,000 to nearly 60 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.
"American Takedown" airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m.; on A&E.