Insurer says highlighted cases saved it from paying nearly $1M on phony claims this year.
A fake story about a stolen vehicle, demand for ransom and subsequent kidnapping was among Manitoba Public Insurance’s top five fraudulent insurance claims this year.
The story started with police recovering the badly damaged vehicle of a Winnipeg woman, who said she’d gotten a Facebook message from the thieves who had stolen it from her garage.
The woman said she didn’t call the police when the robbers demanded payment for the vehicle’s return, but instead agreed to meet them. That’s when she said they kidnapped her and sped around the city for hours before crashing the stolen vehicle.
Since the woman’s story had many unanswered questions, the public insurer’s special investigation unit — which looks into suspicious claims to weed out fraudsters — took on the case.
After an examination of the vehicle’s ignition and immobilizer system revealed it wouldn’t run without a key in the ignition, which raised a red flag since the owner confirmed in a statement she had all the keys in her possession.
When presented with the results of the investigation, the woman finally admitted she’d lied about the kidnapping to cover up the fact that she had been driving around with a group of friends while drinking alcohol and speeding when they crashed into another vehicle and took off.
AS a result of these findings, the woman’s theft claim was denied, which the insurer said saved an estimated $68,000.
Manitoba Public Insurance said auto insurance fraud costs ratepayers an estimated $50 every year. The insurer releases the top-five list annually to raise awareness about those costs, Chief Customer Officer Satvir Jatana said in the news release.
Last year, the unit closed about 1,000 investigations, saving the insurer about $14 million.
Work benefit fraud, racing cover-up
The money saved in the fake kidnapping case was just a fraction of the amount saved on another fraud case this year.
Another story involved a professional truck driver who was injured while hauling a load and started receiving income replacement benefits and personal care assistance payments.
The Winnipeg man told his insurance case manager that his injuries prevented him from lifting his arms above his shoulders, moving heavy objects, driving for longer than 15 minutes or even taking out the garbage.
The mans claims meant he was unable to work his regular job — but the insurer later discovered that the man had continued to work while collecting benefits.
Surveillance from the investigation showed the man had still been driving many hours a day and moving heavy wooden crates at work.
As a result of these findings, the driver was cut off from his benefits, and charged with both fraud over $5,000 and making a false statement.
It also saved the insurer an estimated total of more than $700,000.
The next most expensive fraud case in this year’s top five involved a 20-year-old driver who said he’d fallen asleep at the wheel around midnight after a week of working overtime. The driver drove off the road and crashed into several parked vehicles.
The driver said he’d probably been going about 55 km/h, just a bit over the posted speed limit of 50 km/h.
After the investigation, the damage and the vehicle’s data crash recorder showed the man had actually been going nearly 140 km/h.
Additional to those findings, the brake pedal hadn’t been applied and surveillance footage showed the man’s vehicle had actually been racing with another just seconds before the crash.
That collision claim was denied too, and the insurer has started a recovery of costs from the driver.
The estimated cost savings on that incident are around $150,000.
Rogue dog story, planned T-bone crash
Another claim on this year’s list was a woman who said she swerved and crashed into someone’s yard after a dog ran onto the road.
Luckily this accident was recorded from the property owners showed that there was no dog, and that the woman’s boyfriend had been the one driving — which she admitted she covered up because he didn’t have a valid licence.
That claim was denied too, and the insurer is looking to recover costs from the real driver.
The estimated savings on that case was pegged at $29,840.08.
The final fraud case on this year’s list involved what at first appeared to be a T-bone crash at an intersection, where one driver admitted he was at fault.
But video from a nearby surveillance camera showed the vehicles had been slowly travelling through the intersection several times before the crash — which one of the drivers later admitted he and his friend had staged to try to write their vehicles off.
That case ended up saving the insurer an estimated $15,297.46.
Anyone with information about auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the Manitoba Public Insurance tip line anonymously at 204-985-8477 or toll-free at 1-877-985-8477.
This article was originally sourced by www.cbc.ca.