Life insurance scams don’t often command the attention that their bigger cousins — medical fraud and car scams — do. The incidence of fraud in life insurance pales in comparison. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of fraud in this line of insurance. And cases that do come to light can be highly interesting.
Consider four from this week:
• 22-year-old Jonathan Roth of New York helped his dad fake a drowning off of a New York beach. The older Roth had recently tripled his life insurance and allegedly was hiding out, waiting for his payday. The case surfaced when Jonathan’s dad got pulled over for speeding in South Carolina.
• A $2-million life policy is at the center of a murder case against Andrea Sneiderman, mother of two in Georgia. Police say Sneiderman was looking for an easier, debt-free life. Sohe allegedly convinced her former boss to shoot her husband so she could live off of the insurance proceeds.
• In Chicago, Russell Wasendorf Sr., chief executive of a failed brokerage firm, recently boosted his life insurance to $6.9 million. He attempted suicide after allegations arose the he stole $100 million from his firm. He thought the life payout might help partially make his victims whole, officials surmise. No such luck.
• A lawsuit in the U.K. accused executives of Phoenix Life of paying themselves millions as the company headed towards insolvency. The suit accuses the company of secretly trying to purge billions of dollars of future liabilities. They caused policyholders to lapse or surrender their policies, refused to pay death benefits when policies matured, and canceled the firm’s own policies while keeping the premiums.
With so much life insurance fraud in the news, the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud is distributing a half-dozen tips for consumers to help counter these schemes. The tips include:
• Know that these scams increase the cost of your insurance policy;
• Be careful of someone taking out a policy on your life;
• Don’t try to fake your own death. It’s not worth it;
• Beware of “churning and twisting schemes” by insurance agents; and
• If you hear or suspect any type of insurance fraud, report it immediately.
• Don’t encourage or assist anyone thinking of committing fraud. When the scheme unravels, you’ll face grave consequences too.
Good advice. Life insurance is a vital financial product for families and businesses. We all need to do whatever we can to ensure life policies remain affordable and are not used in nefarious ways.
About the author: Dennis Jay is executive director for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.