WINNIPEG — Manitoba Public Insurance ratepayers saved more than $14 million this year after investigators for the auto insurer squashed would-be fraudulent claims.
MPI’s special investigations unit (SIU) closed nearly 3,000 investigations in the last 12 months. According to MPI data, fraudulent claims cost each customer about $50 per year.
“Our SIU team works tirelessly to investigate suspicious claims in order to ensure the right claims are paid and for the right amount,” said Marnie Kacher, chief operations officer, MPI.
As another year comes to a close, MPI has released its annual list of the top five frauds uncovered by its investigators.
No. 1: Dirty laundry
A policyholder reported that their vehicle was stolen from their home and destroyed by fire. Investigators found a laundry detergent container nearby, which they later discovered was filled with gasoline at a gas station earlier in the day. After being confronted with the evidence, the individual admitted the fire was accidental and the vehicle was not stolen as stated in their original statement. The claim was denied based on the policyholder making a false statement, saving MPI ratepayers approximately $24,400.
No. 2: Inflated injuries
After a claim was opened citing injuries suffered when another driver crashed into their vehicle while changing lanes, MPI began investigating to see if the policyholder was really as injured as they reported. According to MPI, the individual claimed to be suffering a concussion, headaches, dizziness, back, knee and neck pain, an ankle injury and more. They reported that their ailments were so severe that they could not open water bottles, or lift a pen, and had limited mobility due to balance issues, nausea and full-body pain. They claimed they could barely get out of bed. Surveillance showed the person was very active, including going on long walks, shopping for hours at several stores, lifting bags of groceries, and driving a motorcycle on multiple occasions. The individual was informed that their benefits would be terminated, saving MPI ratepayers more than $300,000 by denying the claim.
No. 3: Fibbing friends
Two friends were found to have fabricated a story involving a vehicle that was supposedly damaged by a nearby semi-truck. They also said that the other driver had already reported the collision to MPI and accepted liability for the collision. After further investigation, the two people were found to be known to one another and often interacted publicly on social media networks. A search of the damaged vehicle revealed jugs of coolant and oil in the back seat and after a full inspection, it was determined that the vehicle’s engine had seized due to lack of oil. The repair cost for the severe mechanical issues was anticipated to be $45,000. When interviewed, the second driver confirmed they intentionally hit the vehicle with a rented moving truck after being asked for help by the vehicle owner. The owner also admitted to staging the collision. The denied claim saved ratepayers more than $50,000.
No. 4: Impaired interpretation
After a single-vehicle rollover, three intoxicated people were found by police outside of a heavily damaged truck with all of its airbags deployed. Police were unable to determine who was driving the vehicle at the time as there was a lack of witnesses. One person raised suspicions more than the others as the truck was registered in their spouse’s name. One person was arrested for intoxication and later released without charges. Days later, the same person opened a single-vehicle collision claim with MPI, indicating that they had hit a rut, lost control and rolled the vehicle. They also claimed they were alone in the truck and had not consumed any drugs or alcohol in the previous 24 hours. MPI investigators quickly learned that the police had attended the scene and the claim was denied due to the false statement provided, saving ratepayers an estimated $62,000.
No. 5: A key story
A theft claim for a stolen vehicle turned out to be bogus after the person couldn’t keep their story straight. MPI received a report of a stolen SUV from an individual’s place of employment during an overnight shift. When speaking to police, the claimant said they had one set of keys in their possession after misplacing the other set. However, when filing a claim with MPI they said they had both sets of keys at the time of the alleged theft. The vehicle was recovered and towed to the MPI compound where it was examined by technicians. The examination concluded that the installed immobilizer was operational and functioning as designed. A coded and programmed transponder radio frequency signal is required to enable the engine to start and remain running, therefore a programmed key is the only way to start the vehicle. Additionally, the investigation found that the vehicle ignition was not manipulated or damaged. As both sets of keys were determined to be in the customer’s possession despite the initial conflicting reports, the claim was denied, saving MPI’s ratepayers over $38,000.
Anyone who suspects auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the anonymous MPI tips line at (204) 985-8477 in Winnipeg, 1-877-985-8477 outside of Winnipeg or submit information online at mpi.mb.ca.