Posted at: 05/20/2013 11:26 PM
Updated at: 05/20/2013 11:31 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Health insurance, life insurance, and car insurance are among types of protection most people would not go without. But what about traffic ticket protection, with a promise that you will never have to pay out-of-pocket for a traffic fine again.
For the past few weeks, KOB Eyewitness News 4 has been looking into an online company based out of Las Vegas, Nevada that offers just that.
Like any laws, the rules of the road are sometimes broken, and you, the violator, could be subject to a ticket.
If you are not careful, fines can add up, costing up to hundreds of dollars.
That is where www.ticketsbite.com comes in. It is a company that calls itself "traffic ticket protection" and guarantees, if you sign up, you will never have to pay for another traffic ticket again.
Coverage plans cost anywhere from about $50 to $200 a year, depending on the type of ticket you think you might get. This includes everything from speeding, caught driving without a seat belt, a parking violation, and nearly everything in between. The company even covers the cost of traffic school.
At first glance, some say, it sounds like a good offer.
"For, I think teenage kids, I think it'd be a great choice... because they're speeders," Jessica Lucero said.
Another driver agreed. "That seems like a good website," the man said.
Others, who saw it for the first time, were more skeptical.
"I wouldn't subscribe to something like that...it's a gimmick," Mike Lopez said.
Andrew Marquez was just as concerned. "A P.O. Box, no…, in Las Vegas, Nevada? Are you kidding? It could be an escort service, for all you know."
KOB Eyewitness News 4 called the company directly to better understand how it works, and spoke with a representative.
"We are not an insurance company, I just want to clear that up," the representative said. She went on to explain, when a customer files a claim, or shows proof of the ticket, ticketsbite.com sends money directly to the customer, who then uses the money to pay the ticket.
Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said, it does not matter who pays, the violator will still be responsible for court appearances and points on their record. Call it what you want, Martinez said, it is ticket insurance sold over the internet.
"If it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it acts like a duck, it's probably a duck," he said. "It's probably insurance, and they're trying to act like it's not insurance, which potentially is a form of fraud."
KOB Eyewitness News 4 went straight to New Mexico's Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe, and spoke with lead insurance investigator, John Gaherty.
"There's a lot of information on here, but if you read through it, it's very vague," Gaherty said. "It does appear to be an insurance product, as defined by the statute, and we can find no license for this company."
Currently, there is no proof ticketsbite.com has any license to operate here in New Mexico.
Gaherty said, he immediately sent a letter, post-marked May 8th, to the P.O. Box number listed on the website in Las Vegas, Nevada, notifying the co-founders of our state's investigation.
"Your phone call initiated this, I'd never heard of this company," Gaherty said. "When I contacted Nevada Division of Insurance, they had never heard of these people either."
After several days and several attempts, KOB Eyewitness News 4 finally got ahold of the company's co-founder, Chris Thomas, who lives in California.
In a phone interview, he explained, "We really operate like a voucher system." Thomas acknowledged; however, the word 'voucher' is nowhere to be found on the website.
"A lot of states, they don't view providing insurance for traffic tickets as a legal way of doing business," Thomas said.
Registered or not, Thomas said, he believes they already are doing business with people here in New Mexico, among about a thousand customers nationwide. He said he has yet to see a letter from the NMPRC.
Despite the fact that ticketsbite.com provides money to customers to pay for a claim that is filed, Thomas emphasized, "We don't believe that we're an insurance company, so there's no reason for us to register ourselves as an insurance company."
Be warned, Gaherty and Martinez said, if you sign up for this traffic protection, there is nothing right now that guarantees you will get what you pay for.
"Don't get somebody else to pay your fines," Martinez said.
The company has until the end of this Friday to get back to the NMPRC. If they do not respond by then, or if it is clear there are violations of our laws, New Mexico's superintendent of insurance can take action.
NMPRC is asking anyone who has bought the product to get ahold of them.