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Along with floodwater and debris, Sandy swept in windows for individuals to take advantage of the storm and the suffering of others. At a meeting in Howard Beach on Tuesday, November 27, one woman said she witnessed someone hose down the interior of his car in an attempt to claim the vehicle was damaged by Sandy and get a new one through his insurance policy.

“I was like ‘wow.’ I had never heard anything like that,” said Cindi Strauss after listening to her neighbor’s story. “But I guess people try to get away with what they can. You draw a line in the sand and people try to tip toe over it.”

The Howard Beach resident said she’s seen a lot of new automobiles around the neighborhood lately, but chalked the new rides up to car insurance companies replacing damaged vehicles at a swift rate.

Strauss, who attended the meeting with her husband Michael, said instances of fraud make it incredibly difficult for those rightfully seeking assistance to get the help they need. Strauss said her husband has lived in their house since he was born and an insurance claim has only been filed once before, sometime in the mid-80s.

“It’s just not right for them to turn their backs on people like this,” said Strauss. “I don’t see how anyone could defraud the system with their homes. They come in and see everything isn’t working and they can see it’s damaged.”

Elizabeth Stelzer, a spokesperson for Nationwide car insurance, said she was unaware that people were attempting to submit fraudulent claims. She said because the screening process for claims is rigid, it would be difficult for someone to slip a false one past.

“When we go through claims process it’s a very thorough process so each claim is based on its own merits,” said Stelzer.

The spokesperson said that even during times of disaster, the process remains the same, regardless of the increase of claims filed.

“This is what we prepare for,” said Stelzer. “After a catastrophe you have more damaged cars, but this is what you train for all year round.”

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