Consumer Alert: City Blue owner victimized by the same scam affecting New Yorkers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — When the owner of City Blue Imaging got a letter from Progressive Insurance a letter in the mail, he almost threw it away. That’s because Mark Cleary doesn’t have Progressive insurance, or so he thought.

New Yorkers are getting bills from Progressive, GEICO, and Liberty Mutual for insurance they didn’t buy. It’s an issue I’ve been investigating for weeks. And for Cleary, financial fraud is the last thing he needed after a really tough year.

On Christmas Eve, an inferno consumed Cleary’s business, City Blue Imaging, leaving little but slab where the locally-owned mainstay once stood. The building next door is now their temporary home.

Mark Cleary and his brother-in-law, John Mealy, are optimists, slowly building back the business that’s called Rochester home since 1926. But now they’re dealing with another headache. They’re both victims of fraud.

“Right around the first or second week of January, I received a notice from unemployment," Cleary said.

But Cleary hadn’t filed for unemployment. He’s one of the thousands victimized by crooks who applied for unemployment benefits using the stolen private information of innocent New Yorkers, but that’s not all. Cleary is facing a two-front financial fraud attack.

"Well Monday, [March 12, 2021] I got a notice from Progressive," Cleary said.

A cyber thief had opened an auto policy using his name, address, and VIN.

"I go, ‘How does someone have this vehicle identification number, and the model number and the plates? They had everything that you would need from DMV to register a car or whatever,’" Cleary said.

All that information in the hands of an identity thief, but Cleary would soon learn he is not alone.

"Right around that time it turns out that John had gotten the same letter," Cleary said.

John Mealy, Cleary’s brother-in-law and business partner, also got a letter from the state indicating someone had filed an unemployment claim in his name. And Cleary’s wife had gotten a letter from Progressive indicating someone had taken out a policy in her name.

"We’re in the midst of rebuilding our company and this is taking an inordinate amount of time to deal with these matters," Cleary said.

In my previous reports, I investigated why New York victims were receiving bills from Liberty Mutual and GEICO for auto insurance they didn’t buy.

It’s imperative that all victimized New Yorkers take multiple steps to protect their money. The Department of Financial Services says thieves are getting access to your private information through insurers’ free quote websites. It’s investigating the matter.

As for Progressive, a spokesman said, "While we are not experiencing the same issue described in the alert from the New York State’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), we are working with them on a related matter and we are taking measures to address the issue."

I asked the spokesman to elaborate; he wouldn’t citing the ongoing investigation. Liberty Mutual and GEICO are providing identity theft protection for victims. And late Monday evening, after the deadline for my broadcast, a Progressive spokesman contacted me by email writing: “I can tell you that Progressive will be directly notifying all affected consumers and we will be offering free ID theft monitoring as part of that notification process.”

If you get a bill for insurance you didn’t buy, you need to take the following steps:

  • You need to call the fraud department of each insurer.
    • Progressive: (877) 238-5194 (option 2)
    • Geico: 1-800-824-5404 ext. 3313
    • Liberty Mutual: 1-617-357-9500
  • Call the DMV’s Insurance Services Bureau at 1-518-474-0700. You need to make sure they have the right auto insurance listed because the DMV may now believe you’ve changed your insurance.
  • Then you need to check your credit with all three agencies – Transunion, Equifax, and Experian here.
  • Next, freeze your credit with all three. We know your identity is now compromised. The freeze assures us that thieves can’t open new lines of credit in your name.
  • Lastly, you need to report this crime to the NY Department of Financial Services here.