S.C. Attorney General Asks Big ‘I’ Members: ‘Help Fight Fraud’

March 23, 2006

An appeal for independent insurance agencies to assist South Carolina’s law enforcement agencies to document and report information on insurance fraud was voiced by Attorney General Henry McMaster during the March 22-23 Spring Conference held in Columbia by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of South Carolina. McMaster, the March 23 opening speaker, discussed Insurance Fraud and Prevention.

“South Carolina’s law enforcement officials have their hands full with violent crimes and don’t have the manpower to investigate insurance fraud instances,” McMaster explained.

He said, however, that if insurance agency representatives gave him proof and documentation of fraud on a “silver platter,” he would have the evidence he needed to prosecute such cases.

The Attorney General said South Carolina has 16 solicitors, but said it is very rare for an insurance fraud case to be tried in a circuit court.

Insurance fraud cases, according to McMaster, require too much investigative work to be done by law enforcement.

“If you wait for them to investigate insurance fraud, you will have a long time to wait,” McMaster said.

He appealed to insurance agents attending the meeting, and others in the state, to put together a file about alleged insurance fraud, including documents and information prosecutors can use to legally pursue a case. McMaster said that as the state’s Attorney General he has the power to legally pursue such cases and would do so if provided with appropriate information.

“As long as you don’t do anything illegal, like breaking into a house and stealing something,” he quipped, “we would appreciate your help. After a few successful prosecutions, the word will get out and there will be less fraud.”

McMaster said insurance fraud is always a lengthy, well-laid out plan and suggested it could be lessened with swift investigations and efficient prosecution. He urged insurance agents to watch for fraud, document it and report it to his office and vowed to take speedy action if he has complete information.

“If we accomplish this, South Carolina will become a model states which other ones will follow in their efforts to fight insurance fraud,” McMaster said.

McMaster took office in 2003, with one prosecutor devoted to insurance fraud. He said that his budget was recently allocated $400,000 to fight insurance fraud and he had added four new insurance fraud prosecutors to his staff.

The Attorney General said another area of concern is workers’ compensation fraud urging everyone to push to get state laws changed. He said the most common workers’ compensation fraud his department encounters is businesses misrepresenting the number of employees and the work done. He said to prosecute workers’ compensation fraud it is essential for the prosecutor to prove pursuing the case has economic benefits.

McMaster pointed out that staged accidents and auto insurance fraud account for 36 percent of the fraud instances in South Carolina. He also cited false disability claims and forged certificates of insurance as major problems. Another area he pinpointed was false insurance claims made by homeowners and businesses, including arsons.

The Attorney General pointed out that state and police authorities to pursue.

“We need to be aggressive,” McMaster concluded. “With your help we can get this job done and be a model for other states to follow.”

The spring conference concludes on March 23 with a closing session presented by Larry W. Palmer of Selective Flood Insurance in which he will discuss “Flood Insurance Issues and Answers. He will provide an overview of the flood insurance program in the United States, discussing general rules, eligibility, underwriting and rating of flood insurance.

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