WINNIPEG — Manitoba Public Insurance has released its annual list of the top five frauds of the year.
While vehicle collisions were down as more Manitobans stayed home in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MPI says fraudsters didn’t miss a beat trying to fool the Crown corporation.
“MPI releases its annual top five fraud list to raise awareness about the costs related to auto insurance fraud — about $50 per customer yearly,” said Curtis Wennberg, MPI’s chief operating officer.
“The list is compiled based on the unique circumstances of each fraud, financial savings to MPI ratepayer, and investigative excellence in unearthing the fraudsters.”
As of the end of this November, MPI’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) closed nearly 1,000 suspicious investigations, resulting in savings of more than $13 million.
Top 5 MPI Frauds of 2020
- Burning Up Debt — A person made a claim with MPI stating that his new travel trailer had been stolen from a storage yard in rural Manitoba. The trailer was found later that morning about 10 kilometres outside of down still smouldering from being burned on a gravel road. An MPI investigator went to the burn site that same day and took photos. While returning to his office, he noticed a building with a surveillance camera pointed towards the highway. The surveillance footage showed the trailer being towed around midnight by a pickup truck, which closely resembled the same year and model of the trailer’s owner. It was determined the vehicle owner was having financial issues. When confronted with the evidence, he denied any involvement, but wouldn’t allow MPI to download data from his vehicle to determine where he was on the night of the theft. The man contacted MPI days later to withdraw his claim, saving ratepayers an estimated $37,000.
- Creative Accounting – A woman was injured in a vehicle crash and eventually returned to her job on a part-time basis, unable to work full-time due to lifting and other physical demands. She began receiving income replacements from MPI, as calculating from submitted income tax documentation. An MPI investigator later noticed an irregularity in a letter and email allegedly coming from an accounting firm, which the woman had submitted. After a conversation with the accounting firm, it was confirmed both the email and letter were fabricated and false. Investigators then did an extensive review and discovered numerous anomalies relating to the woman’s income tax information, which turned up fabricated tax data. The woman’s benefits were terminated, resulting in an estimated savings to MPI and its customers of nearly $800,000: a figure based on future payouts. MPI is also seeking to recover $100,000.
- Wascally Wabbit! — A 20-year-old man claimed he crashed his vehicle into a light standard while trying to avoid hitting a rabbit that ran in front of his car. An MPI investigator determined irregularities with the man’s story, and also found he was experiencing significant financial issues, exasperated by a large vehicle payment. A download from the vehicle’s crash data recorder showed the vehicle was accelerating at the time of the crash, contradicting the man’s story that he was braking before he hit the pole. With all the evidence in hand, the claim was denied. Claims savings to MPI and its customers was $31,000.
- Mr. Volunteer — A man who was injured in a collision and unable to do physical work began receiving income replacement payments from MPI. Months into the claim, an MPI investigator found the man, 33, regularly worked at a Winnipeg retail outlet, including assisting customers. Unbeknownst to him, he served an MPI investigator and several others who were doing surveillance. When confronted, the man denied working, saying he was “volunteering” his services. The man’s benefits were terminated resulting in an estimated savings to MPI of nearly $300,000.
- Never Know Who’s Watching — A Winnipeg real estate who was involved in a crash claimed to be too traumatized to drive and even had trouble being a passenger. Combined with a number of physical injuries, the man could not resume his job and began receiving income replacement benefits. Several irregularities began to surface for the MPI case manager over time, who forwarded the file to MPI’s SIU. The subsequent investigation, which involved surveillance, revealed that the man had returned to his job as a real estate agent, regularly showing houses to clients, dealing with contractors on various renovation sites and driving to all parts of the city; showing no signs of distress. On one occasion, the case manager called the man, who whispered over the phone he couldn’t speak because he was at the doctor’s office. During this conversation, the man was in fact showing a house with clients, while also being observed by investigators. The claim was denied, saving MPI nearly $110,000.