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27-07-2023
5 min read
10 Insurance Frauds Worthy of a Netflix Drama

Insurance companies are well-known targets for fraud. Most examples are pretty unspectacular but here are some real cases that are breath-taking in their audacity.

David Smith
Content Writer

Despite advances in digital security, fake insurance claims still occur. As recently as 2020 107,000 were uncovered in the UK, totalling a staggering £1.2 billion. That’s like finding 300 a day or one every five minutes. How many more go undiscovered we’ll never know.

But let’s face it, some of the stories are fantastically entertaining – daring, imaginative, bizarre and ultimately thwarted. Here are some of our favourites.

 

The Death and Resurrection of John Darwin

 

In 2002 Darwin faked his drowning at sea and his wife claimed the £679,000 policy on his life. With the mortgage paid off, Anne was able to join John and start a new life in Panama. But by 2007 John felt so homesick for Hartlepool that he went back to England and presented himself at a police station claiming amnesia. His story unravelled quickly. In 2008 he and Anne were convicted of insurance fraud and sentenced to six years in prison.

 

The story proved so fascinating that in 2022 a dramatisation was broadcast on ITV.

 

The New York Jewellery Bundle

 

Although they were already in a lucrative business, jewellery shop owners Atul Shah and Mahaveer Kankariva wanted more. In 2008 they paid two men to dress up as Hasidic jews and fake a robbery. All went to plan. The owners destroyed their CCTV footage with cleaning fluid and filed a claim for $7 million with Lloyds of London.

However, the cleaning fluid hadn’t done as thorough a job as they thought, and detectives salvaged enough to watch them emptying their own safe two hours before the break-in.

 

Fires, Floods and Acts of God

 

If you’re going to do it, do it big. That seems to have been the philosophy of Patrick Wayne Bronnon, the Texas man who perpetrated a string of fraudulent claims worth $1.7 million. He bought cheap, ramshackle houses, insured them and their imaginary contents for huge sums of money then, with the help of his 40-strong gang of heavies, staged fires, floods and other disasters that destroyed the properties. He threw in a few burglary claims as well.

 

It was only a matter of time before he was discovered and in 2019 he was convicted and sentenced to 78 years in prison. He served only one year because he died in July 2020.

 

Slip-and-fall

 

That’s the industry name for claims made by people who stage accidents, literally by slipping and falling over on someone else’s property then claiming on the owner’s insurance. 72-year old Isabel Parker spent all her money in casinos so decided to gamble on her fraud skills. Between 1993 and 2000 she slipped, fell and claimed from supermarkets and department stores 49 times. She used 47 fake IDs and 11 addresses.

 

It netted her $500,000 but it also earned her a four-year prison sentence.

 

The Man Who Never was

 

Some insurance frauds are spur-of-the-moment crimes. For Jean Crump, Faye Shilling, Barbara Lynn and Lydia Pearce of California it was spectacularly premeditated. They invented a man called Jim Davis, insured his life for $1.2 million then ‘killed’ him off and buried him. Actors attended the funeral, a showroom dummy standing in for the imaginary Jim and parts of a cow added for weight. When they realised the FBI might be onto them they had the body exhumed and cremated. 

 

Unfortunately for them they were not as careful with their paperwork and they ended up in jail.

 

A Helping Hand

 

Some frauds are not for the squeamish. In South Carolina in 2008, Gerald Hardin devised an ingenious scheme to claim $670,000 in a dismemberment claim. Rather than harming himself, he convinced Micheal Weaver, a friend with learning disabilities, to make the sacrifice. Having chopped off Weaver’s hand, Hardin claimed under six different policies.

 

Hardin served five years in prison.

 

Food Fraud

 

Jacqueline Masse of New Hampshire faked food poisoning on a dozen occasions, claiming $400,000 and receiving $206,000. She also enlisted family members in her scam. Her targets were restaurant owners who accepted her claims in good faith. However, the pretence started to crumble when she went as far as fabricating medical records to support her lies. She went to prison for 18 months.

 

The Great Depression

 

Richard Moore, a hotel owner in Manchester, successfully claimed £35,000 under his income protection policy when he told his insurers he was suffering depression and anxiety which prevented him from working.

 

What he neglected to disclose is that he was still holding down several jobs. His deception came to light after four years when insurance investigators stumbled across a newspaper article in which he was photographed accepting an award for his management of the Victoria Hotel in Bury. His conviction for fraud followed.

 

...And the Famous Fraud That Never Happened

 

Rumours of fraud hang around lots of major events. Few disasters in modern history have attracted as much speculation and discussion as the sinking of the Titanic. One of the many myths – long since discredited – about this tragedy was the suggestion that it was not in fact the Titanic that sank but its sister ship the Olympic. The insurance pay-out on the famously ‘unsinkable’ ship – so the theory went – would be much greater than for the Olympic. The ships’ owners, the White Star Line, may have been culpable for many things but insurance fraud was not one of them.

 

 

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