The 'not-so-honest' way to get rid of your old vehicle

A lot of cars were missing in 1982, but many hadn't been stolen.

In 1982, police in Quebec were seeing an increasing number of 'stolen' cars

The National reports in 1982 that an increasing number of car thefts are actually cases of insurance fraud. 1:59

A lot of cars were missing, but many hadn't been stolen.

That's because the owners had willfully disposed of those cars, in order to collect an insurance payout.

In August 1982, The National ran a story on the problem as it was playing out in the province of Quebec.

As The National showed viewers some pictures of a Montreal scrap yard, reporter Susan Copeland explained how such schemes worked.

Selling to a dealership was always a possibility, but Copeland said in many cases, that might only be worth one-tenth of what an insurer could pay.

Why? Because Copeland said many insurers' price lists hadn't yet "caught up to the changing car market."

'Insurance is going to pay'

Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Gerard Roberge said the people taking part in the insurance fraud typically sold their cars to a scrap yard. (The National/CBC Archives)

That higher payout insurers gave was something that many people found appealing, which is why Copeland said "more and more people are finding a not-so-honest way to get rid of that old gas-guzzler."

Sgt. Gerard Roberge of the Sûreté du Québec said the people engaging in these schemes would typically sell their vehicles to "a scrap yard or something."

Those same cars would then be chopped up into parts and then reported stolen by their owners.

"We have to investigate a car which doesn't exist," said Roberge, referring to the fact that any such car would no longer be in one piece.

"The insurance is going to pay the person for the loss of the car."

Not just in Quebec

In 1982, police in Quebec said half of the large, older-model cars being stolen in the province were suspected insurance swindles. (The National/CBC Archives)

Copeland said police had been seeing an increasing number of cars disappearing, particularly large models from the mid-1970s.

She said the SQ estimated "that half the pre-1978 large cars reported stolen are insurance swindles" and police said similar schemes were known to be occurring in other parts of Canada as well.

A day after Copeland's report aired, the Toronto Star ran its own report on Canadians participating in auto insurance fraud.

Police in that province estimated that "owners may be involved in up to 25 per cent of automobile thefts reported in Ontario," according to the paper.