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In observing the sentences being handed down for insurance fraud crimes, I cannot help but wonder at the reason for the imbalance of justice.
Our jails are full of criminals. Some incarcerated individuals are serving five-year sentences for petty theft crimes or marijuana possession, while insurance fraud criminals responsible for the theft of millions of dollars are routinely being sentenced to one- or two-year terms, then released to enjoy the stashed spoils of their crimes. If an attorney milks $9 million from the system, and only pays with 18 months of his life, what kind of an annual salary does that work out to? Six million dollars a year — not a bad working man’s wage!
I wonder if the legislators (who make the laws and set the punishment parameters) and the juries (who hear the cases and determine the guilt or innocence of those charged) feel less sympathetic toward insurance companies than they do toward other victims of crimes of much less magnitude. Is this why the purse snatcher who knocks down an 82-yearold woman will face many times the jail sentence faced by the insurance fraud criminal?
Let’s face it, insurance companies are not always viewed in a favorable light. In fact, there are those who perceive the insurance companies as entities that collect (steal?) money from honest people and then do everything possible to avoid paying out the money. In discussing such issues with people who are not closely tied to the industry, I have actually heard them say, “intiurancwe fraud is ;shout crooks stealing from other crooks.”
I would like to see a discussion ensue regarding what can be done to change the image of the insurance industry. How can we educate the people to understand that insurance fraud perpetrators are actually stealing from the general public when they defraud a company?
We in the industry, especially those of us who deal with insurance fraud on a daily basis, know that a large percentage of the compensation paid out on claims is due to fraud. Whether it is a paper automobile accident, exaggerated injuries or a false workers’ compensation claim, the end result is increased premiums. One way or another, we all are the eventual victims of the crime.
I think we fraudfighting professionals have a responsibility to pass this message on at every opportunity. We must create an attitude that we (the public) are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!
Since each of us is also an insured, we can all do our part to educate our neighbors, friends and family, so that a strong single voice can be heard by our legislators. Criminals who steal from the general public must be aggressively pursued, prosecuted, convicted and punished.
What, after all, is really the difference between taking an old lady’s money from her purse while she’s watching — or snatching it out of her purse while she has her back turned? What is the difference between stealing money from the cash register of a retail store by putting a gun to the head of the clerk — or stealing money (disguised as increased workers’ compensation premiums) I’ruin the slort, ht’c~iuse ol insurance fraud?
No matter what you call it, it’s theft and those responsible must be punished.
Specialized Insurance Investigations Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Letters from readers addressing the above problem are encouraged and will be published, subject to editing, in the next issue.
To get the ball rolling, here is my own personal idea for a partial solution to the massive task of public education.
California has a perfect set-up for mass general education: Traffic School! Individuals who receive traffic tickets may, once in any 18-month period, have the ticket expunged from their driving record by attending eight hours of the most boring drivel in the universe. Attendees are usually warned that they will be awakened only once — the second time they fall asleep they will be thrown out. Those who manage to stay awake, do so by gritting their teeth and silently repeating the following phrase a minimum of ten thousand times: “I will never speed (or what-ever) again because I would rather be burned alive, fed tofu flavored rice cakes spread with toxic waste and made to watch a billion Larry Lawyer commercials … than ever have to come back to traffic school.”
What if this bored-to-tears captive audience were given a reprieve for one hour? What if an industry volunteer told them about insurance fraud, how to avoid becoming a victim and how, if they try to pull a scam, we’re gonna get ’em and throw them in jail?
Attention Chuck Quackenbush, California Commissioner of Insurance: You may sign me up for three volunteer hours per month.
Anybody else out there willing to pledge likewise?
© 1995 John Cooke Fraud Report