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Burning Down the House

Los Angeles Times:

In what appears to be the latest symptom of the nation’s mortgage meltdown and credit crisis, insurers, law enforcement officials and state agencies nationwide report a jump in home and automobile fires in the last year believed to have been set by owners unable to pay their debts. The numbers are small, but they’re leading the insurance industry to scrutinize more closely what seem to be accidental blazes.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in this kind of fraud,” said Dan Bales, director of fraud investigations at Mercury Insurance. “People upside-down on their house with variable-interest-rate loans, or upside-down on their cars, are pretty quick to burn their property right now.”

Last week, a Sacramento-area couple were arrested on allegations that they burned their Jeep and drove their Nissan pickup into a river, then filed fraudulent insurance claims. According to investigators, the wife admitted she was trying to escape her $600 monthly car payment.

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