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TDI SFMO Arson Lab not accepting evidence

TDI SFMO Arson Lab not accepting evidence

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) Arson Lab announced today that it will not be accepting evidence at this time. The website states they will begin accepting evidence again on April 16th, 2018. During this time of need, we offer our services with

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How to Combat Insurance Fraud Simply and Efficiently

How to Combat Insurance Fraud Simply and Efficiently
How to Combat Insurance Fraud Simply and Efficiently - Armstrong Laboratory

How to Combat Insurance Fraud Simply and Efficiently – Armstrong Laboratory

  • Simple testing kits can reduce the time and expense of investigating fraudulent insurance claims.
  • Special Investigative Units using these kits combat fraud efficiently and effectively.
  • Armstrong Forensic Laboratory, Inc. provides a wide range of services to assist the investigative industry.

“Property/casualty insurance fraud amounts to about $32 billion a year, according to industry estimates” (iii.org, 2017). The Insurance Information Institute (III) notes this accounts for nearly 10% of the industry’s losses. The team at Armstrong Forensic Laboratory (www.aflab.com) spend each and every day reducing those numbers. They are a premiere resource for any Special Investigative Units (SIUs) battling fraud.

The simple, quick kits provide easy-to-understand snapshots of the conditions before the investigated incident. The Vehicle Fluid Analysis (VFA) kit, for example, is a quick and inexpensive tool for any claim investigator. The kit allows anyone to determine the condition of a car engine prior to the incident. That information often helps an insurance company determine whether there is possible fraud by bringing to light the true facts. An easy process and quick resolution make this an invaluable tool for any vehicular investigation.

Thousands of Vehicle Fluid Analysis kits are utilized every year; the investigators who use Armstrong return again and again. The value of the tests are immeasurable, especially to Special Investigative Units. These teams are the ultimate line of defense against fraudulent claims, and are often hindered by time constraints, limited resources, and the burden of making some of the hardest decisions in the industry.

SIUs work hard to determine all of the facts of an incident scene. Often, the short turn-around from claim to payment challenges the team. Sometimes, the investigation will appear to cost more than the payout, so it would seem counter-intuitive to delve into the problem. Both of these issues have a simple solution: Armstrong Forensic Laboratory. Reports will arrive from the labs within the “good faith” timeframe so a complete picture can be pieced together. The cost-effectiveness of the kit improves an investigation’s efficiency. The Armstrong Forensic Laboratory Kit Programs provide fast response times and accurate results with easy-to-read reports and clear-cut, court-ready evidence to support the SIU determination.

Fire debris, paint testing and vehicle fluid kits are a few of the services offered by Armstrong Forensic Laboratory, Inc. The ability of these tests to reduce investigative costs cannot be overstated. These simple kits are usable by anyone. It is important to your business and your customers that you have these tools at hand. Contact AFLAB today at 817-275-2691 or email Kits@AFLab.com to ensure your SIU is fully prepared.

Learn more about Armstrong’s convenient Kit Program.

Report suspected Insurance Fraud

Learn more at the National Insurance Crime Bureau

Chain of Custody and Its Importance

The Chain of Custody, or Evidence Transmittal Letter, is a very important document that must accompany your evidence when submitting samples to the laboratory for analysis. This is especially true if the case goes into litigation. It is also very important for other types of regulatory

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Improved Vehicle Fluid Evidence Containers

Worried about shipping fuel samples?  Now you don’t have to!  Our new and improved sample containers are one ounce plastic jars, which are perfect for shipment of vehicular fluids to the lab.  The Department of Transportation (DOT) document 49 CFR §173.4 “Small quantities for highway and rail” states that class 3 materials (fuels) may be shipped via ground shipping, and is limited to a sample size of thirty (30) mL or one (1) ounce.  The full document can be found here 49 CFR §173.4.  Each of our kits come with prepaid FedEx and UPS ground shipping labels.  As long as you use one of our kits, you never have to worry about whether your sample is in compliance with DOT regulations.  Insider tip from the lab:  write “laboratory sample” on the outside of the box before you send it in.  You are not required to do so, but it does make shipping evidence easier on both you and the shipping company.

Improved 1 oz. Sample Container

Bonus feature!  Even though they look small, the one ounce jars will still fit your vampire or vacuum pump.  No need to purchase a new one!  Does your kit still contain the larger two ounce plastic jars?  That’s ok, too!  Just be careful not to fill past the “fill range” line imprinted on the jar near the top, and your evidence is well within compliance.  Don’t have a vacuum pump?  Call to order one from us.

Improved Sample Containers Fit Vamp Pump

If you have any questions, or would like to request a kit with the new and improved containers, please call us at (800) 644-4175 toll free, email us at Kits@AFLab.com, or simply fill out the ‘Sample Kit’ request form on our website.

We will respond as quickly as possible, and may be able to ship your kit the same day!

Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was created to coordinate development of a quality infrastructure for forensic science standards development.  There are about 20 people on the Standard Development Organization (SDO).  Some time later, NIST created a multi-level organization to conduct its assigned responsibilities.  This group is called the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science.  It consists of five Scientific Area Committees (SACs) which report to a Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB).  Each of the five SACs oversee discipline-specific subcommittees.  Three Resource Committees provide input to the FSSB, SACs, and SAC Subcommittees.

Only about 550 of the world’s greatest experts on these topics are on these committees.  We are very proud to say that Dr. Andrew Armstrong is on the Fire Debris & Explosives Subcommittee of the Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis SAC.  Currently, OSAC is working diligently to improve old American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards, and to create new standards.  These changes and additions are voted on by ASTM E30, Committee of Forensic Science.  Any changes are sent back to OSAC to vote on whether they accept, or reject the proposed changes.  Additionally, they are working on improving Quality Assurance/Quality Control guidelines, and on improving specific report language.

For more information about OSAC, NIST, any of the five SACs and their subcommittees, you may visit https://www.nist.gov/forensics/organization-scientific-area-committees-forensic-science.  There you will find more details about the improvement of these standards and guidelines that are based on sound scientific principles.  Stay tuned for the latest in this developing area!

Questions?  Feel free to contact us at (800) 644-4165 or (817) 275-2691 DFW Metro, or simply fill out the ‘Ask An Expert’ form on our website.  Dr. Armstrong, and his entire staff at AFLab is more than happy to take your call!


Springer, Sabrina. “OSAC Home.” NIST. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 05 May 2017. <https://www.nist.gov/topics/forensic-science/osac-home>.

Plan Your Next Continuing Education Event With Armstrong

Armstrong offers FREE Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) approved continuing education courses!  Our client reviews speak for us!

“Great course, thank you!”

“It was all very helpful”

“The white paint transfer example was the most helpful part”

“Evidence collection and the chain of custody were helpful”

“The live demonstration was helpful to me”

“The visual demo was most helpful”

“Great class!”

“I enjoyed seeing the live action sample collection”

“Course material was clear and included pictures”

“I really enjoyed this course and the presenters were both professional and likeable”

“Live paint sample demonstration was very helpful”

Call us today at 817-275-2691 to schedule your very own Lunch & Learn continuing education class, or to ask when we’re hosting another public class!

Continuing Education Courses

Did you know Armstrong Forensic Laboratory, Inc. is a Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) approved course instruction provider?  We offer several classes for investigators, claims adjusters, field representatives, or anyone in need of continuing education credit towards their licensure.

Our consultants have been presenting continuing education courses for several years, and is highly sought after in our fields of expertise, including:  fire debris analysis, fuel analysis, paint analysis, identifying the source of unknown substances, proper evidence collection and handling, and much more.  A full list of the courses we offer along with their CEU value are located in the drop down list under ‘Contact Us’, entitled ‘Continuing Education’.

Our events are intentionally marketed to smaller, more intimate groups of no more than 25 people.  Both our presenters and attendees have commented multiple times that they really enjoyed the one-on-one feeling you get in such a smaller setting.  Each of our seminars include lunch and continuing education credit FREE of charge!  Ask us about our special 3.0 hour CEU lunch seminar that includes a live evidence collection demonstration, utilizing our evidence collection kits, at the completion of the classroom.

If you, or your team are interested in having Armstrong host an event tailored to your company, or are interested in attending our next scheduled event, please either fill out one of the forms on our website, or simply call to the lab at 817-275-2691 and ask for our Account Manager, Charllotte, and she will make the proper arrangements for you.

See below for some of the comments and feedback we received from surveys taken after the seminars we have hosted in the past.  We hope to see you at our next continuing education event!

“Thank you for organizing this continuing education seminar!”

“I really enjoyed the seminar yesterday. Thank you for putting that on for us. When you get a chance, could you forward the price list for paint sample testing and automotive fluid sample testing?”

“Thanks Charllotte, really enjoyed the seminar yesterday.”

“Thanks, I had a great time. It was good to chat with everyone and put a face with a name.”

“Thank you all again for the lunch & learn last week, that was a very informative seminar and I got a lot of good tips out of it.”

“Excellent presentation, thank you!”

“Thank you! Great event!”

“Thank you Charllotte. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and it was nice to meet Dr. Wouters. The food was excellent and I liked the conference area. I thought the acoustics were good and the seating was set up in a comfortable way, unlike some meetings I have been to where the acoustics were bad and it was hard to hear.”

“Thank you very much for hosting this event. We found this seminar to be very beneficial and informative.”

Paint Transfer – Hit and Run

paint transferYou’re walking to your car, which is parked on side of the street in front of your house and you notice streaks of red paint transfer and a large dent on the body of your car.  You have been a victim of a hit and run accident.  Unfortunately, this type of incident happens quite often, and it can leave you, the innocent motorist, feeling very frustrated.  You are weary of filing a claim on your insurance because you’re afraid your premium will increase.  The next week, you are driving through your neighborhood and notice a red car, within close proximity to your home, that appears to have sustained similar paint transfer damage to their car, and you suspect they might be the culprit.  What do you do?

First thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to call your local police department and file a hit and run claim.  The officers will come to the scene, take your statement, inspect yours and the suspect’s vehicle, and will file a report for you.  They may also be able to obtain the suspect vehicle’s insurance information by conducting a search in their vehicle registry database.  Be sure to write down the officer’s name, badge number, report number, and any other relevant information if the officer hasn’t already done so for you.  This information will become vital to your insurance claim, should you choose to file.

Next, contact your insurance company.  Let them know the situation, and give them every detail you have, including the information from the officers who arrived at the scene.  An investigator will likely come to the scene, with warranted permission, and collect forensic evidence from both vehicles.  DO NOT attempt to collect paint transfer samples on your own!  The process of collecting said evidence involves physically scraping the paint transfer off the vehicle using a scalpel or razor, and should only be conducted by trained professionals.   It is illegal to intentionally damage someone else’s property, so DO NOT attempt to do this on your own, or you will find yourself in a legal dispute as well.  Let your insurance company work for you!

The special investigator will collect three samples:  one from the insured vehicle, a second from the paint transfer, and a third from the suspected source.  Armstrong Forensic Laboratory provides paint transfer sample collection kits containing certified clean, unused tools to aid in the sample collection process.  The investigator will submit the three samples, and our highly trained analysts will compare the three samples, and can prove whether or not the red car in your neighborhood is the culprit.

Armstrong Forensic Laboratory is an American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) ISO 17025 accredited laboratory for paint and fibers; among many other designations.  This, in essence, means we are certified to conduct paint transfer analysis, and our reports can be used in civil or criminal litigation.  If you have been involved in an incident similar to the one described in the beginning of this post, please do not try to remedy the situation yourself.  There are plenty of trained professionals, namely those from your insurance company, who can, and will, assist you through this not-so-pleasant experience.

If you have any further questions about the process, call us at 817-275-2691, or simply fill out the ‘Ask An Expert’ form on our website, and someone will contact you shortly afterward.  Additionally, you can view the links below for more information and advice.

Forum Discussion

Hit And Run Crash