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1,300 insurance scams uncovered every day

Written by: Emma Lunn
A preacher, a rock guitarist pensioner, and an award-winning hotelier were among the insurance cheats exposed by insurance companies in 2018.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has published its annual detected fraud figures which lay bare the lengths insurance cheats will go to try to con their insurer.

The total number of fraudulent claims and applications detected in 2018 stood at 469,000, 3 per cent up on 2017.

Of these, 98,000 were fraudulent claims, with 371,000 dishonest insurance applications. The number of fraudulent claims detected fell 6 per cent on 2017, while the number of dishonest applications for cover rose by 5 per cent.

Motor insurance scams remained the most common and most expensive, with 55,000 dishonest claims worth £629m detected. The number and value of these claims both fell on the previous year – down 8 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

The ABI found the average insurance scam uncovered is now worth £12,000 – but the highest fraudulent claim exposed was for £1.2m.

During the past year, the equivalent of two cheats every week received a criminal conviction or a caution for insurance fraud.

Cases investigated by the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, the specialist police insurance fraud investigation unit funded by the insurance industry, included 16 people involved in a “crash for cash” crime gang who received a collective 33 years in jail sentences.

Some other insurance cons uncovered over the past year include:

  • A preacher, and self-styled bishop, was jailed for 10 months after being found guilty of staging a motor crash. He fraudulently bought motor insurance using another person’s details, then contacted the insurer saying he had crashed the car into another vehicle. It turned out that he owned the vehicle he said he had crashed into, and that the car he said he had been driving was in the church car park at the time.
  • A retired fridge engineer dropped his claim for hearing loss caused by his work, when it emerged that he was a frontman in a rock ’n’ roll band. Claim documents denied that he had any noisy hobbies. The judges gave the insurer permission to bring a case for contempt of court.
  • An award-winning hotelier was caught out claiming £34,000 in disability income from his insurer saying that his depression and anxiety meant he could not work, when he was in fact running a hotel. He received a 14-month suspended prison sentence.
  • A criminal gang which made fake claims of nearly £1m for damage and lost earnings from restaurants they said had been flooded by burst water pipes. It turned out that they had deliberately smashed the water pipes and that the restaurants had never been open for business. The five men were jailed for a total of 14 years.
  • A man made multiple claims to different travel insurers claiming that illness meant he had to cancel his family holiday. He used fake airline tickets, bank statements and emails of hotel reservations to claim nearly £20,000. He received a 16-month jail sentence.

Mark Allen, ABI’s manager for fraud and financial crime, said: “Insurance fraud is the scourge of honest insurance customers who make genuine claims. Insurance cheats can be ingenious, and are constantly looking for new scams to exploit, which is why the industry makes no apology for spending around £250m a year on measures to tackle this crime.

“Spearheaded by the Insurance Fraud Bureau and the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, there will be no let-up in the industry’s determination to root out fraudsters and press for the stiffest possible penalties for these cheats.”

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