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Home / Articles / Columnists / Happy Motoring /  Airnag theft and fraud: A growing crime trend
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Friday, August 5,2016

Airnag theft and fraud: A growing crime trend

By Teresa Aquila  

What are the facts about Airbag Theft and Fraud? The Insurance industry statistics show that approximately 50,000 airbags are stolen each year, resulting in an annual loss of more than $50 million to vehicle owners and their insurers. In the long run, we, the consumers, end up paying the bill due to higher insurance and vehicle costs. This is staggering, and even more reason why you always need to do your research prior to purchasing a used vehicle.

 

Airbags have quickly become a primary accessory on the black market for stolen vehicle parts. Criminals have made this a full time job by reselling stolen airbags. A new airbag, which retails for approximately $1,000 from a car dealer, can cost between $50 to $200 on the black market.

Because of their portability, airbags can be easily removed and reinstalled as “new” by unscrupulous collision repair shops. These dishonest businesses will then charge the vehicle owner or their insurer the full price for the replacement, thus committing insurance fraud.

The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) issued a report on fatal crashes in 2008 that revealed troubling information about used airbags. In 255 of 1,446 fatal accidents, airbags had not been replaced after a previous crash. In nearly 50 percent of all fatal crashes with non-deployed airbags, these safety devices were defective or simply missing. So while non-deployments are rare, fatalities are likely when airbags do not work as intended.

To address this growing concern, in California, the State Senate passed in 2012 the Automotive Repair Act (Senate Bill 869), which established the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Among the many regulations the Bureau will enforce, auto repair shops would now be required to return airbags to their original condition when replaced during collision repair.

How to avoid Airbag Fraud?

Do a VIN (vehicle Identification number) check to get the vehicle history report prior to buying a used car and asking a technician to inspect it. The vehicle history report can reveal so many ugly secrets in a car that it isn’t even worth inspecting and the time spent. You and your family’s safety is a good reason to determine if the car has been previously involved in an accident or not. The accident record in a used car’s history is a warning sign, and “airbag deployment” record is an alarm signal.

If the report reveals an accident in the car’s history, always have it inspected by a trusted expert prior to purchasing it to make sure that the air bag is in proper condition, even if it wasn’t deployed previously.

Check the airbag indicator. When you switch on the ignition, light should appear instantly and then go out. Remaining on flashing light indicates that an airbag system has a malfunction. If the light never turns on, the airbag may be missing.

Fraud and Theft Prevention Tips The National Insurance Crime Bureau suggests the following prevention tips to help avoid airbag fraud and theft.

– Use a reputable automobile collision repair shop that employs ASE-certified mechanics. If you do not already associate with a reputable shop, ask your friends, check Angie’s list or contact the Better Business Bureau in your area to locate one.

– Inspect the invoice to ensure the repair shop purchased the airbag from a manufacturer, dealer or recycler.

– If possible, inspect the airbag prior to installation. If new, it should be packaged in a sealed container from the manufacturer.

– The trim cover over the steering column should be the same color as the remaining trim interior. If not, it is an indication that the original airbag has been replaced.

– When you turn on your vehicle’s ignition, a red SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) indicator should light up and flash in the instrument panel display, indicating the airbag system is activated. No SRS light indicates a problem with the airbag system that could result in no airbag activation.

IF YOU SUSPECT INSURANCE FRAUD OR THEFT, SPEAK UP! CALL THE NICB TOLL- FREE HOTLINE…1.800.TEL.NICB (1.800.835.6422). YOUR CALL IS FREE. YOUR CALL CAN BE ANONYMOUS. YOU COULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR A REWARD.

Reference: https://www.nicb.org/

 

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