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INSPECTION DATABASE SYSTEM PROVIDES VITAL INVESTIGATIVE CAPABILITIES
technology and sophisticated database management methods are
playing an increasingly important role in vehicle
pre-insurance photo inspection programs. Because of major advances in digital
technology, the strategy of vehicle photo inspection as a deterrent to vehicle
insurance fraud, provide the insurance industry and law enforcement with near-instant
access to powerful technology and management tools.
Digital imaging and computerized database technology are integral building
blocks in the pre-insurance photo inspection process. While advanced digital
has resulted in high quality vehicle inspection “images,” high-speed,
computer-based electronic communication capabilities have resulted in a powerful
system that can accept, process, transmit and store information in innovative
ways. And because of the near-instant access to important inspection information
and computing power, effective productivity “tools” are now available
to the insurance industry and its special investigative units, and law enforcement
agencies, as part of the photo inspection process.
CARCO Group’s application of electronic imaging and database management
technology to vehicle inspection requirements is based on extensive experience
in mandatory vehicle inspection programs. A pioneer in vehicle inspection services
and a recognized field leader, CARCO has provided, on-line, more than fifteen
million inspections over a 25-year period: the system provides access by insurance
carriers to inspection photos and reports, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The company now makes available one of the most powerful database systems of
its kind available for use by the insurance industry and law enforcement. The
continuously expanding database, along with the company’s active research
and development activities, represents a dynamic inspection information and
research resource for the insurance industry, law enforcement, fraud bureaus,
agencies concerned with the economic problems created by of insurance fraud.
Of all the major property crimes committed in the U.S. last year, and for more
than 25 years, vehicle-related crimes have the greatest economic impact on
the largest number of people. Of the $15 billion in property crimes reported
2001, for example, vehicle-related crimes accounted for $7.8 billion, nearly
half of the total of all property crimes combined, of which up to 25 percent,
according to insurance industry investigative professionals, are insurance
frauds. Through the effectiveness of mandatory pre-insurance vehicle inspection
however, crimes of this nature can be deterred with considerable success.
CARCOs approach to the vehicle inspection process provides proven research,
tracking and management tools. The system’s multifaceted computer capabilities related
to developing and managing a huge photo inspection database extends and enhances
the user’s research and investigative capabilities. These capabilities
make the related data processing functions more efficient and more economical
for the insurance industry and law enforcement agencies.
A DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
One of the most significant aspects of CARCO's information
management capabilities, as related to vehicle pre-insurance
inspection, is the streamlined integration
and management of inspection information. Using computer-based “downloads” of
photographic images captured with a digital camera and digital files created
by scanning hard copy instant photos and inspection reports, the system puts
all of the key data into an easily accessed integrated format.
The flatbed digital scanners employed by CARCO in the initial stage of the data
input process, provide good quality images of Polaroid instant color prints,
where applicable, while faithfully capturing the hand-prepared, page-size inspection
forms submitted by the inspection stations. The scanners provide a resolution
level of 640 x 480, which yields good image quality, while using minimal storage
space. Special software provides a clear preview of the digital downloads, or
scanned images including Polaroid color photos and inspection forms on a computer
The software developed by CARCO for the inspection database system, beginning
with digitizing hard copy information, is an integral part of a sophisticated
VIN-indexing system which facilitates near-foolproof retrieval. Besides the simplicity
of scanning photographic images into an electronic system, access to all the
pieces in an inspection report can be achieved in a timely, efficient and economical
manner. CARCO's approach to electronic imaging, using a digital scanner is based
on extensive knowledge of the inspection process. It's designed for speed, efficiency,
superior image quality and economy. The easy-to-use system requires only minimal
training. Key functions include image acquisition, processing, storage, and image
output. In seconds, inspection photos can be safely stored in a permanent electronic
archive, using WORM technology [Write Once, Read Many].
In cases where Polaroid prints are used, the prints and the inspection report
can be scanned, digitized and stored in a computer-readable format. Because of
the many advantages, and lower cost, of digital imaging, most inspection photos
are now taken with digital cameras, with only a small portion on photos taken
with Polaroid cameras. The computerized data simplifies rapid responses to inquiries
from clients and communications between the insurance carrier's facilities.
Sophisticated image processing capabilities also make it possible to enhance
subtle details in an original photograph, retrieving information that might otherwise
be lost. After digitizing a picture of a car with barely visible license plate
numbers, for example, the image can be electronically enhanced to make the plate
numbers more legible. Portions of the image can also be enlarged for close examination,
The information collected by inspectors during vehicle inspections, along with
the digital color images or Polaroid Photographs taken of the vehicle at the
time of inspection, can provide insurance companies, fraud bureaus and law enforcement
authorities the tools needed to investigate fraudulent claims and in many cases
to prevent a fraud from happening.
THE INSPECTION PROCESS
The process begins when the policy owner reports to an authorized inspection
site within a specified time after purchasing a late model used vehicle. Depending
on the insurance carrier’s requirements, even a high-price new vehicle
may be inspected. A listing of inspection sites, along with maps and directions
to the sites, can be easily found through CARCOs's Web site, through direct telephone
assistance, and through an integrated voice response computer system.
During the vehicle inspection process, an authorized inspector indicates the
make, model and year in which the vehicle was manufactured on an inspection form,
then copies the odometer reading, checks for accessories and optional equipment
and notes the vehicle’s condition and the type and brand of anti-theft
device. Also entered on the form is the all-important Vehicle Identification
Number, or VIN, from the VIN plate, which can be seen through the windshield.
When the inspection is completed, the form is sent to CARCO'S computer center,
along with a minimum of three digital color images or Polaroid instant photos.
Included in the series of photos is a picture of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety
Standard Label, often referred to as the “EPA Label,” which is located
on the driver side door post or door jamb. The EPA Label also includes the vehicle’s
identification number, but unlike the VIN plate on the windshield, it is more
difficult to tamper with. When required to show excessive damage, additional
photos are taken.
Inspection Data Transmitted to Computer Center
When the inspection report is received at CARCO's data processing facility, the
information is reviewed for accuracy and completeness and is then entered into
a powerful database containing approximately 15 million inspection records: the
report is scanned and entered into the database along with the digital images
of the vehicle. If Polaroid photographs were taken, they are scanned to create
a digital file and are entered along with the report. The inspection report can
be retrieved at any time and discrepancies can be resolved immediately.
At the heart of CARCO’s database system is a powerful IBM I-Series e-Saver
AS/400 system, which is connected by a Local Area Network [LAN] to an IBM mainframe.
The AS/400 system, which can access inspection data from a “jukebox” type
optical storage device, is currently equipped with 1.4 terabytes [TB] of data
[1.4 trillion bytes]. An electronic “bridging”system represents one
of the most advanced integrated systems of its type.
CARCO's versatile computer capabilities provide near-instant access to information
obtained from the inspection report and accompanying photos of each vehicle inspected,
whether they are digital images captured with a digital camera, or Polaroid images
that have been digitized by scanning. In either case, the information can be
easily obtained to help an insurance company update policy information, investigate
a claim and expand its database.
The AS/400 System provides CARCO and clients with important
Inspection Report System
Facilitates entry of report data from a browser-displayed
image of form after forms processing/scanning. Includes functionality
features such as Change, Delete,
Database of insurance agents that perform CARCOS inspections, and management
control and reporting program.
Forms Control System
Management control/review of report forms.
Database of clients and programs for management control and statistical reporting.
Database of contracted inspection sites; program for management control and
Electronic dissemination of data reported to insurance companies using various
CARCO’s IRIS [Inspection Report Information System] PC software program
allows users to view and manage inspection report data received from CARCO.
Programs for issuing supplies to vendors, with management control and reporting
JD Edwards Financial System
Financial software system including: A/R, including invoicing,
A/P & G/L,
in-house written interface between CARCOS operations systems and the financial
system including international currency feature to support Canadian operations.
Database System Operation
The process begins with data entry. The insurance carrier’s code number
and the report reviewer’s initials are entered, followed by the inspection
report number, the coverage ID Number and the number of digital photos or,
where applicable, instant photos received. Another key item, the inspection
To avoid potential tampering such as “backdating,” the inspection
reports are completed and stored in sequential order: the date must fit the
sequence in which the reports are issued. The date is also important to determine
time between the inspection date and the arrival of the report at the CARCOS
After the date, the VIN is entered. This critical piece of information is equivalent
to a birth certificate: each number or character in the 17-digit VIN sequence
represents an important aspect of the vehicle, including information about
where and when it was made, the manufacturer, model, assembly plant, and other
information. The VIN therefore plays a key role in validating the authenticity
of a vehicle being insured and is a rich source of information for investigations
by special investigative units of insurance carriers and law enforcement agencies.
The database also provides information for investigations conducted by CARCOS,
which may take place because of noncompliant VINs, seeding the database system,
individual requests from law enforcement officials, and sting-site coordination.
Special Computer “Alerts”
The inspection database system is programmed to issue important "alerts,” which
are indicators that action needs to be taken based on the results of specific
search parameters. “Alerts,” or warning flags, fall into two major
categories: Underwriting or Premium Generation-Risk Evaluation Alerts and Vehicle
Identity-Integrity Alerts. These indicators signal that something outside of
established parameters should be examined such as:
| Additional Operators
|| Counterfeit VINs
|| Altered Labels
| Garaging Location
|| Inordinate Mileage
this information, and more, can be easily accessed from the
database. The inspection reports, regardless of where
or when they were completed, reside in VIN-indexed inspection
database, which is an important tool for preventing frauds
from taking place or spiraling out of control.
Of equal importance to the many unique processing, tracking
and management features embodied in CARCOs powerful computer
database system, is the ability to provide
quickly, via internet-based data transmission methods such as File Transfer Protocol,
information that is needed by the carrier. The inspection documents and photos
reside, on-line, in CARCO’s computer system for access “24/7 “ by
insurers and law enforcement agencies. Accomplished by any conventional telecommunications
method, transmissions can be encrypted as required by the user. This capability,
which can allow the carrier to receive the data in a PC-compatible format streamlines
entry of inspection-related information into a carrier’s system. Information
related to policy owners insured by the carrier can be available to the client
for immediate access, in-house reports generation and data manipulation.
Inspection Site Quality Control
Quality control is an important part of CARCO's vehicle inspection system. It
serves to rate field inspection sites, as well as to verify that inspectors are
sufficiently trained. For example, if one of the three required inspection photos
is missing, CARCOs highly trained data entry personnel will note that a photo
is missing and an “alert” is sent to the field staff to indicate
that the inspector may need more training.
INSPECTION BENEFITS CARRIERS AND PREMIUM PAYERS
The field-proven vehicle photo inspection process, arguably the most effective
deterrent to vehicle insurance fraud, offers multiple benefits to insurance carriers
and their special investigative units [SIUs], law enforcement agencies and fraud
bureaus, in a powerful integrated system that makes sense:
Electronic transmission is fast and efficient
Policy records can be accurately and automatically updated
Noncompliance notices can be generated automatically
Alerts are sent in cases of suspicious inspection reports
Physical retrievals are minimized.
powerful computer database capabilities enhance the value of
the inspection program. Insurance carriers save money, which
helps stabilize premium rates for
consumers: law enforcement personnel can do their job more efficiently, and
criminals who would otherwise profit handsomely from insurance
fraud can be deprived of
illicit profits reaped at the expense of honest policy owners.