Mercury’s SIU Exposed Nearly $24M in Attempted Insurance Fraud in 2013

June 16, 2014

Insurance fraud, the second most costly white collar crime in America (behind tax evasion) continues to grow, with questionable claims rising 26.7 percent across the U.S. in the two-year period from 2010-2012.

The Mercury Insurance Special Investigation Unit (SIU) consists of 50 investigators nationwide who inspect questionable claims.

Mercury’s SIU team completed 1,476 investigations in California during 2013, exposing more than $24 million in attempted fraud.

“It’s amazing the things people will do to try and cheat the system, but they don’t know we’ve seen it all,” said Dan Bales, national director of special investigations for Mercury, which established one of the country’s first SIU’s back in 1978.

Mercury’s 2013 “Best of the Worst Claims,” highlight three attempts to commit insurance fraud.

Claim #3: Smack That
The claimant alleged he was struck as his bicycle passed behind a Mercury-insured vehicle that was backing up in a parking lot. He called the police, filed a report claiming injury and property damage, and was then transported by ambulance to a medical center to treat his alleged injuries.

The real story was quite a bit different, however, as this criminal didn’t know the whole thing was caught on video. And the video clearly showed the claimant intentionally slapping the back of the insured vehicle with his hand and then guiding his bicycle to the ground to make it look like he’d been struck by the car.

The claimant retained an attorney to pursue an injury claim, which was denied by Mercury following the police report that included the security camera video taken at the scene. The claimant was ultimately arrested, convicted and sentenced to three months in jail with three years’ probation, and also had to pay a fine, restitution and his medical bills.

Claim #2: Wrong Way Driver
The insured stopped at an intersection in front of a repair van. Suddenly, the two vehicles collided in what appeared to be a rear-end collision, which necessitated police being called to gather statements.

The insured driver and passenger claimed the van driver had rear-ended the insured’s vehicle and both were allegedly injured. However, the van driver’s adamant contention – that he hadn’t caused the accident – led the investigating officer to seek surveillance video of the incident, which he found at a nearby gas station. Sure enough, the footage showed that instead of proceeding through the intersection as expected, the insured driver threw her vehicle into reverse, slamming into the front of the van.

The insured driver and her passenger were subsequently charged with insurance fraud and conspiracy, and the driver was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon … her car. And yes, the claim was denied.

Claim #1: A Not-So-Merry Christmas
Looking to make some quick Christmas cash, the insured and two cohorts staged an accident and filed medical payment claims through Mercury, which were identified as questionable and assigned to the SIU for investigation.

A detailed claims history was compiled for the three individuals, who were then interviewed by SIU investigators. What the investigators found was that each claimant’s story was different, so they began to look deeper. That’s when they uncovered some very compelling evidence that suggested this accident was staged.

The SIU team discovered the insured’s prior claim history showed a loss at the same location with the same facts provided. A confession quickly followed about his latest claim, as well as a description of all the fraud he’d committed on each of his previous claims. All three claimants were convicted and given probation, community service and ordered to pay more than $26,000 in restitution to Mercury Insurance.

Source: Mercury Insurance

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