Insurance Fraud Stat. Surprises Anti-Fraud Group

By Gary Mogel

NU Online News Service, Feb. 19, 12:47 p.m. EST?A new survey that found 25 percent of the adult public finds it acceptable to overstate an insurance claim has come as a surprise to a group that tracks insurance fraud.

James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, said the percentage announced last week by the Chicago-based management consulting firm Accenture is more than he would have expected. Mr. Quiggle said he thought about 20 percent of the public were prone to this type of fraud.

“There is an unacceptably high tolerance by the public for insurance fraud,” Mr. Quiggle told National Underwriter.

While the survey reported that one in four U.S. adults think that overstating the value of a claim to an insurance company is “acceptable” behavior, it also found that only 10 percent of those surveyed approved of submitting insurance claims for items that were not lost or stolen or for treatments that were not provided.

The survey was conducted by Horsham, Pa.-based Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch.

The survey also found that two-thirds of respondents said people are more likely to commit insurance fraud during an economic downturn than when the economy is strong.

Mr. Quiggle supported these findings, noting that fraud spikes upward in a shaky economy. “When people are laid-off or are struggling financially, they may see insurance fraud as a way to obtain income,” he said.

Half of those surveyed said they think that people commit insurance fraud because they can “get away with it.” And a fifth said they believe that people commit fraud to make up for their deductibles.

“Fraud is a growing concern for insurers, whose aging technology and inefficient processes often prevent them from detecting fraudulent claims,” noted Michael A. Lucarini, a partner in Accenture’s insurance practice.

Lucarini points to estimates by the Insurance Services Office that U.S. property-casualty insurance fraud costs the industry approximately $24 billion a year, representing 10 percent of total claims payments.

‘There is a moral disconnect in personal attitudes toward insurance fraud,” Mr. Quiggle said. “People think it is okay to rip off an insurance company.” Mr. Quiggle added that insurance fraud is often viewed as a “victimless crime” or a “prank” against wealthy insurance companies “that can afford a few stolen dollars.”

The survey is based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,030 people over age 18. Out of these respondents, 298 said they had filed a property-casualty claim.