You’ve probably seen or heard the insurance fraud dramatizations on TV or radio.
Someone always thinks they’re smarter than their insurance company.
In one of them, two friends are sitting in a diner. One of them says, “Too bad about your car getting hit.” His friend isn’t bummed; he figures to make out pretty well, bragging that he already told his lawyer and the insurance company he was injured.
When the first guy points out that he wasn’t in the vehicle when it was hit, his sleazy friend replies, “The insurance company doesn’t need to know that, do they?”
The snappy ads always end with the reminder that insurance fraud is a felony in Pennsylvania and to know the risks: You could go to jail if caught, you’ll certainly lose a lot of money in lawyer and court fees and you may even lose your job.
You can watch these videos anytime on YouTube (seehowtheylie.com) under titles such as “Desperate in Doylestown,” and “Handcuffed in Harleysville,” and “Clueless in Clearfield.”
Or you could read similar stories in the Reading Eagle or at readingeagle.com. Only the names change.
In the last few months I’ve written about a half-dozen auto insurance fraud charges lodged by the state attorney general’s fraud section against Berks County residents. These suspected fraud incidents occurred a year or two earlier, but the charges were filed, unannounced, in the last quarter of 2019 for some reason.
I fished out the criminal complaints after seeing the cases listed for hearings at the magistrate level. I could have easily let them to anonymously filter through the justice system. After all, people have done much worse, right?
Some of them mean no harm. They’re simply living beyond their means and decide one way of getting back on track is to not pay their car insurance.
That’s a poor decision.
Their next mistake is to continue to drive without insurance, a violation of the state vehicle code.
And here’s where the harm starts: If they hit me, I have to go to file a claim with my insurance company. If I don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, my only other option is to take the other driver to court to try to get him or her to pay for vehicle damage and other expenses.
It’s unfair that you and I have to protect ourselves against uninsured drivers. According to the Insurance Research Council, one in eight drivers is uninsured.
One of the schemes I’ve written about most often is so common that, according to one of the fraud videos, insurance investigators have a name for it: Crash and Buy.
A Reading man’s case describes this scheme perfectly. After allowing his policy on his $22,000 vehicle to lapse, he slid on a wet road into a ditch along Route 422 while on his way to a casino. The SUV rolled and was damaged from bumper to bumper.
He called his insurance company immediately after the accident to reinstate his policy, then reported the accident, claiming it happened about an hour after the reinstatement. The police report said otherwise.
I imagine he said something like this when he called the insurance company: “You wouldn’t believe this. I got into an accident about an hour after I reinstated my policy.”
That’s right, pal, we don’t believe it.