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A survey of international scams

BLOG_messagebottleThe Coalition receives a lot of requests from organizations to share our knowledge about insurance fraud — and increasingly those requests are coming from outside the U.S. We’ll visit three continents this year and countries such as India, Singapore and Spain. A lot of what we have learned about finding and stopping fraud can be put to use in other countries. Similarly, cases that happen internationally may one day appear in our shores, so it’s wise to keep an eye out for patterns and schemes developing elsewhere in order to be prepared.

A few recent cases may be particularly relevant for us. This week, a man was arrested in Britain for claiming his iPhone was stolen, and then promptly calling his girlfriend with it. Fake cell-phone losses are getting harder and harder to achieve, with all the location data inside any phone worth insuring.

But the Brits are heading up a great initiative, launching a central database of all insurance fraudsters. Last year, 139,000 false claims were identified in the UK. Combining so much data has allowed them to uncover, for example, one family that made more than 100 false claims for damaged vehicles.

Fraud also is said to be spreading to Portugal, Greece and Italy, but skipping northern regions of Europe, one official says.

In Spain, false claims have spiked 30 percent, scaling down from professional fraudsters to ordinary citizens looking for a quick Euro. People who are unemployed or under age 25 pose the greatest risk for becoming new fraudsters. In a recent case, a man chopped off his arm to live a life of disability payout, but was caught in his lie. It seems too strange to be true, but even in the U.S. we recently had a few strange cases involving gruesome attempts at disability money.

In India, surgeons were discovered needlessly removing women’s uteruses en-masse to make false claims against the state’s medical program. The conditions were atrocious, unsanitary, and the women often weren’t informed about what was being done to them.

People abroad and in the U.S. often think they’ll never get caught if they’re clever enough, a message we try to address and discredit during social media conversations. For every ‘clever’ fraudster, we can provide a similar story leading to an arrest.

Insurers in Jordan are so sick of fraud that they went on strike last month, pressuring the government to take action against fraud groups. Even in the U.S., insurance fraud is not yet outlawed specifically in all states, but an insurer strike seems unlikely.

South Koreans have taken a different approach, they’re hiring more investigators. That wouldn’t be a bad idea.

While fraud fighters in America have their hands full keeping up with every-increasing caseload, it’s always a good idea to understand the fraud trends across the country and around the world.

About the author: Jennifer Tchinnosian is communications specialist for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

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