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It wasn’t a big insurance fraud case by any means. Last year, a Pennsylvania homeowner reported a break-in and the associated property loss totaling $13,500. During an investigation, MetLife Auto & Home discovered alterations on the receipts that were submitted by the woman for the stolen electronics, and the claim was denied. Even worse, a neighbor reported that the homeowner had moved away weeks before the alleged break-in.

The homeowner was arrested, sentenced to two years of probation, and fined $500. This type of opportunistic fraud is not uncommon, but special investigative unit (SIU) investigators fear it’s the tip of the iceberg in America’s faltering economy. SIUs in both personal and commercial lines are bracing for a new wave of fraud. Those who were around during the last major recession in the early 1990s remember the spike in fraudulent claims and the emergence of highly organized fraud rings. Today, falling real estate values and unprecedented financial crises have formed a perfect storm of economic circumstances that tempt ordinary people to commit fraud.

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