Auto insurance fraud isn’t necessarily a sophisticated crime. It can be as simple as a driver with a learner-stage licence claiming she had a supervising driver with her at the time of the crash. Or a vehicle owner, overwhelmed with car payments, arranging to have his vehicle stolen.
Those were just two of the fraudulent claims made to Manitoba Public Insurance that passed through the courts in 2007. By uncovering these and other attempts at fraud, the corporation’s Special Investigations Unit has saved motorists nearly $40 million over the last three years, in terms of money recovered and fraudulent claims denied.
In its ongoing efforts to battle auto insurance crime and heighten public awareness, Manitoba Public Insurance has released its annual list of Top Five Frauds that passed through the courts last year. (Names of the guilty parties have been omitted to prevent possible embarrassment to family members.)
Anyone knowing someone who is involved in auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the Manitoba Public Insurance TIPS Line: 985-8477 or toll-free 1-877-985-8477.
No. 1: Key to the Crime
The claimant told Manitoba Public Insurance that his 2003 Hyundai had been stolen. Since the vehicle was equipped with an immobilizer and the claimant claimed to have both keys in his possession, the adjuster notified the Special Investigations Unit.
When the vehicle owner produced the keys, only one turned out to have a transponder, which is necessary to start a vehicle with an immobilizer. The other key was a copy containing no transponder. The insured claimed the copy would start the vehicle, but that was impossible.
The vehicle was later recovered with no sign of forced entry or ignition damage.
At the trial, it was established that the claimant, not wanting to keep up payments on the vehicle, had given the missing transponder key to a third party, with instructions to steal the vehicle. The claimant was convicted of fraud over $5,000 and fined a total of $4,027.
No. 2: Enough Rope to Hang Himself
The claimant told his adjuster that he had accidentally driven his truck into the river.
When a tow-truck operator was hired to recover the Jeep, he discovered that the owner had forgotten to remove the rope that he had tied between his Jeep and a nearby tree. The rope had allowed the claimant to escape the vehicle without being swept away by the current.
The insured pled guilty to Making a False Statement, and was fined $1,000. He was also not paid for the loss of his Jeep.
No. 3: Stealing an Unstealable Truck
The claimant reported his 2003 Dodge quad cab pickup truck had been stolen from a St. James bar parking lot. The vehicle was subsequently recovered in rural Manitoba completely burnt. Interestingly, the truck had been equipped with an immobilizer, and all the keys were accounted for. However, a set of tracks confirmed that the vehicle had been driven to the spot where it was found burnt.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the vehicle owner was having great difficulty making his $870 per month lease payments on the vehicle. The vehicle owner denied any involvement in the theft.
However, just before jury selection at trial, the claimant had a change of heart, and pled guilty to fraud over $5,000. He was fined $2,602 and ordered to make full restitution of the amount Manitoba Public Insurance had paid to Chrysler Financial: a whopping $39,373.56.
No. 4: Truth or Consequences
The claimant, who only held a learner-stage driver’s licence, was involved in an collision in Winnipeg.
When she reported the claim, she told her adjuster that a supervising passenger was with her at the time. As part of the routine investigation, the adjuster contacted the alleged supervising passenger, who denied being in the vehicle at the time of the collision.
The claimant was convicted of making a false statement and driving without a licence, and fined $200.
No. 5: Didn’t Learn the First Time
In 2004, a man was convicted of filing a false statement with Manitoba Public Insurance and fined $500 – so when he opened a new injury claim following a motorcycle crash, his file was routinely forwarded to the Special Investigations Unit.
The man claimed a foot injury suffered in the crash had left him unable to work. Disability payments soon followed. However, suspicious behaviour prompted an investigation, which subsequently revealed the man had in fact returned to his job as a funeral director while still collecting disability payments.
Earlier this month at Court of Queen’s Bench, the man pled guilty to making a false statement and was fined $3,500. He also repaid $10,000 in disability payments to Manitoba Public Insurance.