Friday, February 9, 2007
7 News Investigations: License to Cheat
Everyone wants to save money on their car insurance, but some people are taking things too far. As Patrick Fraser tells us in this special assignment report, their license to cheat is jacking up car insurance rates for everyone else.
WSVN -- The next time you are out driving take a look at the tags.
From New York to North Carolina, from California to Colorado, from Utah to you name it -- out-of-state plates from all over and many of them are taking money out of your pocket.
"It makes me feel very annoyed."
Some of the people who have out-of-state plates are tourists or temporary snowbirds escaping old man winter.
"We're here just for two months, and it's registered in New Jersey."
But many times, the out-of-state plate owners are here to stay.
"How long have you been here?"
"About five to six months."
"Are you going to change your tags?"
When you move to Florida, you have 10 days to register your car -- and guess why many people don't? Money.
James Quiggle: "It can be very tempting to try to shave a few hundred dollars off of your auto policy by simply registering your vehicle in another state or another county that charges much lower premiums. Now, if you live in Miami and register your car at your mother's house in Minnesota, you save money. But you are breaking the law and stealing from the taxpayers in Florida."
Delrish Moss: "When you're in Florida, and you've done that, and you've moved into Florida, and you've kept your Alaska tag or your Maryland tag, you are not really paying into the tax base here."
Not only does it happen all the time, the men and women who patrol the streets catch people all the time.
Officer Andrew Markowitz: "When you look at the registration, and they have an out-of-state tag, and they hand you a Florida driver's license, that's a tip-off right there."
Patrick Fraser: "The lawbreakers down here who don't pay state taxes for their tags force us to pay more in taxes. And then people in places like New York hit us on our insurance bills, who register their cars in rural towns in Florida where car insurance is much cheaper."
"How long have you lived in New York?"
"All my life basically."
At least these New Yorkers who register their cars in places like Florida to save money on insurance are honest about why they are breaking the law.
"Yeah, I'm a New Yorker."
"Why do you have out-of-state tags on this thing?"
"Because of the insurance, the insurance purpose."
Patrick Fraser: "And when a New York driver with a vehicle registered to Florida has an accident, guess whose rates go up? Yours and mine."
James Quiggle: "The insurance company is going to look at Florida and say, 'Oh, here's another large accident.' Another large insurance payment that's coming out of Florida, and they're going to consider that when they're deciding to raise premiums for policy holders in Florida."
But the crooks who are costing us all are not the kind of folks you see shuffling into court in handcuffs.
In fact, they might be the people beside you in church.
James Quiggle: "A big part of your fraud problem is your average church-going neighbor who's normally honest, who wouldn't think of stealing candy bar from a drugstore, thinks nothing of trying to rip off their insurance company a few hundred dollars by registering their car in another state or another county."
The solution is not simple -- the cost though is clear.
Maria Cisneros: "Fraud is a big, big problem not only in Florida, but in all of the United States, and all the honest customers and citizens are paying for this."
And we will all keep paying more, with so many people having a license to cheat.
Insurance experts say to stop this practice all states need to pass stricter rules about shipping plates out of state and increase the penalties for failing to properly register your car.