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Colorado Criminal Law: Insurance Fraud*

Insurance fraud is any act committed with the intent to fraudulently obtain payment from an insurer.

Insurance fraud has existed ever since the beginning of insurance as a commercial enterprise.

Types of insurance fraud are very diverse, and occur in all areas of insurance. Insurance crimes also range in severity, from slightly exaggerating claims to deliberately causing accidents or damage. Fraudulent activities also affect the lives of innocent people, both directly through accidental or purposeful injury or damage, and indirectly as these crimes cause insurance premiums to be higher. Insurance fraud poses a very significant problem, and governments and other organizations are making efforts to deter such activities

Causes

The “chief motive in all insurance crimes is financial profit.” Insurance contracts provide both the insured and the insurer with opportunities for exploitation. One reason that this opportunity arises is in the case of over-insurance, when the amount insured is greater than the actual value of the property insured. This condition can be very difficult to avoid, especially since an insurance provider might sometimes encourage it in order to obtain greater profits. This allows fraudsters to make profits by destroying their property because the payment they receive from their insurers is of greater value than the property they destroy.

Insurance companies are also susceptible to fraud because false insurance claims can be made to appear like ordinary claims. This allows fraudsters to file claims for damages that never occurred, and so obtain payment with little or no initial cost.

The most common form of insurance fraud is inflating of loss.

Losses due to insurance fraud

It is virtually impossible to determine an exact value for the amount of money stolen through insurance fraud. Insurance fraud is designed to be undetectable, unlike visible crimes such as robbery or murder. As such, the number of cases of insurance fraud that are detected is much lower than the number of acts that are actually committed. The best that can be done is to provide an estimate for the losses that insurers suffer due to insurance fraud.

Hard vs. soft fraud

Insurance fraud can be classified as either hard fraud or soft fraud.

Hard fraud occurs when someone deliberately plans or invents a loss, such as a collision, auto theft, or fire that is covered by their insurance policy in order to receive payment for damages. Criminal rings are sometimes involved in hard fraud schemes that can steal millions of dollars.

Soft fraud, which is far more common than hard fraud, is sometimes also referred to as opportunistic fraud. This type of fraud consists of policyholders exaggerating otherwise legitimate claims. For example, when involved in a collision an insured person might claim more damage than was really done to his or her car. Soft fraud can also occur when, while obtaining a new insurance policy, an individual misreports previous or existing conditions in order to obtain a lower premium on their insurance policy.

Types of Insurance Fraud

Life insurance

An example of life insurance fraud is the John Darwin disappearance case, an ongoing investigation into the faked death of British former teacher and prison officer John Darwin, who turned up alive in December 2007, five years after he was thought to have died in a canoeing accident. Darwin was reported as “missing” after failing to report to work following a canoeing trip on March 21, 2002. He reappeared on December 1, 2007, claiming to have no memory of the past five years.

Health care insurance

According to Roger Feldman, Blue Cross Professor of Health Insurance at the University of Minnesota, one of the main reasons that medical fraud is such a prevalent practice is that nearly all of the parties involved find it favorable in some way. Many physicians see it as necessary to provide quality care for their patients. Many patients, although disapproving of the idea of fraud, are sometimes more willing to accept it when it affects their own medical care. Program administrators are often lenient on the issue of insurance fraud, as they want to maximize the services of their providers.

The most common perpetrators of healthcare insurance fraud are health care providers. One reason for this, according to David Hyman, a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, is that the historically prevailing attitude in the medical profession is one of “fidelity to patients”.

This incentive can lead to fraudulent practices such as billing insurers for treatments that are not covered by the patient’s insurance policy. To do this, physicians often bill for a different service, which is covered by the policy, than that which was rendered.

Another motivation for insurance fraud in the healthcare industry, just as in all other types of insurance fraud, is a desire for financial gain. Public healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are especially conducive to fraudulent activities, as they are often run on a fee-for-service structure. Physicians use several fraudulent techniques to achieve this end. These can include “up-coding” or “upgrading,” which involve billing for more expensive treatments than those actually provided; providing and subsequently billing for treatments that are not medically necessary; scheduling extra visits for patients; referring patients to another physician when no further treatment is actually necessary; “phantom billing,” or billing for services not rendered; and “ganging,” or billing for services to family members or other individuals who are accompanying the patient but who did not personally receive any services.

Automobile insurance

There is a wide variety of schemes used to defraud automobile insurance providers. These ploys can differ greatly in complexity and severity. Richard A. Derrig, vice president of research for the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts, lists several ways that auto-insurance fraud can occur.

Examples of soft auto-insurance fraud can include filing more than one claim for a single injury, filing claims for injuries not related to an automobile accident, misreporting wage losses due to injuries, or reporting higher costs for car repairs than those that were actually paid. Hard auto-insurance fraud can include activities such as staging automobile collisions, filing claims when the claimant was not actually involved in the accident, submitting claims for medical treatments that were not received, or inventing injuries.

Another example is that a person may illegally register their car to a location that would net them cheaper insurance rates than where they actually live, sometimes called “rate evasion”. For example, some drivers in Brooklyn drive with Pennsylvania license plates because registering their car in a rural part of Pennsylvania will cost a lot less than registering it in Brooklyn. Another form of automobile insurance fraud, known as “fronting,” involves registering someone other than the real primary driver of a car as the primary driver of the car. For example, parents might list themselves as the primary driver of their children’s vehicles to avoid young driver premiums. Hard fraud can also occur when claimants falsely report their vehicle as stolen. Soft fraud accounts for the majority of fraudulent auto-insurance claims.

“Crash for cash” scams may involve random unaware strangers, set to appear as the perpetrators of the orchestrated crashes. Such techniques are the classic rear-end shunt (the driver in front suddenly slams on the brakes, eventually with brake lights disabled), the decoy rear-end shunt (when following one car, another one pulls in front of it, causing it to break sharply, then the first car drives off) or the helpful wave shunt (the driver is waved in to a line of queuing traffic by the scammer who promptly crashes, then denies waving)

Organized crime rings can also be involved in auto-insurance fraud, sometimes carrying out schemes that are very complex. An example of one such ploy is given by Ken Dornstein, author of Accidentally, on Purpose: The Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America. In this scheme, known as a “swoop-and-squat,” one or more drivers in “swoop” cars force an unsuspecting driver into position behind a “squat” car. This squat car, which is usually filled with several passengers, then slows abruptly, forcing the driver of the chosen car to collide with the squat car. The passengers in the squat car then file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. This claim often includes bills for medical treatments that were not necessary or not received.

Property insurance

Possible motivations for this can include obtaining payment that is worth more than the value of the property destroyed, or to destroy and subsequently receive payment for goods that could not otherwise be sold. According to Alfred Manes, the majority of property insurance crimes involve arson. One reason for this is that any evidence that a fire was started by arson is often destroyed by the fire itself.

Detecting insurance fraud

The detection of insurance fraud generally occurs in two steps. The first step is to identify suspicious claims that have a higher possibility of being fraudulent. This can be done by computerized statistical analysis or by referrals from claims adjusters or insurance agents. Additionally, the public can provide tips to insurance companies, law enforcement and other organizations regarding suspected, observed, or admitted insurance fraud perpetrated by other individuals. Regardless of the source, the next step is to refer these claims to investigators for further analysis.

Due to the sheer number of claims submitted each day, it would be far too expensive for insurance companies to have employees check each claim for symptoms of fraud. Instead, many companies use computers and statistical analysis to identify suspicious claims for further investigation. There are two main types of statistical analysis tools used: supervised and unsupervised. In both cases, suspicious claims are identified by comparing data about the claim to expected values. The main difference between the two methods is how the expected values are derived.

Fraudulent claims can be one of two types. They can be otherwise legitimate claims that are exaggerated or “built up,” or they can be false claims in which the damages claimed never actually occurred. Once a built up claim is identified, insurance companies usually try to negotiate the claim down to the appropriate amount. Suspicious claims can also be submitted to “special investigative units”, or SIUs, for further investigation. These units generally consist of experienced claims adjusters with special training in investigating fraudulent claims. These investigators look for certain symptoms associated with fraudulent claims, or otherwise look for evidence of falsification of some kind. This evidence can then be used to deny payment of the claims or to prosecute fraudsters if the violation is serious enough.

United States

Insurance Fraud is specifically classified as a crime in 48 out of 50 states (all except Oregon and Virginia).

The Penalty for Colorado’s Insurance Fraud is:

 A Class 5 Felony ( or greater depending on the loss) Colorado $5000-$750000. 18 months-25 years if probation is granted average probation is 12 years

Nineteen (19) states require mandatory insurer fraud plans. This requires companies to form programs to combat fraud and in some cases to develop investigation units to detect fraud. 41 states have fraud bureaus. These are law enforcement agencies where “investigators review fraud reports and begin the prosecution process.”

Federal Law:

Section 1347 of Title 18 of the United States Code states that whoever attempts or carries out a “scheme or artifice” to “defraud a health care benefit program” will be “fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.” If this scheme results in bodily injury, the violator may be imprisoned up to 20 years, and if the scheme results in death the violator may be imprisoned for life.

Insurance Fraud

Denver Colorado Insurance Fraud Lawyer

Insurance fraud takes place when an act is committed or false claims are filed in order to receive payment from an insurer. Insurance companies are ruthless in their quest to see that individuals allegedly committing fraud are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Medicare Fraud

We represent health care providers, such as doctors and clinics, in alleged Medicare fraud cases. This can involve fraudulent billing for services not rendered, prescribing medications that are not needed, fraudulent cost reports or self-referrals. Philadelphia insurance fraud lawyer Randolph Goldman also represents individuals accused of falsifying documents in order to obtain Medicare health care coverage for themselves or members of their families.

Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Companies that provide workers’ compensation insurance to injured workers are very diligent in ensuring that the worker is actually injured. If a worker is not actually injured, or appears uninjured, they may attempt to have workers’ compensation fraud charges filed. Other types of workers’ compensation including making false statements about your injury to employers or medical professionals, receiving benefits after the injury has healed and you are back to work, or assisting another person in making a false claim.

Other Types of Insurance Fraud

We also handle cases of alleged insurance fraud involving:

  • Car insurance fraud
  • Property insurance
  • Health care insurance fraud
  • Life insurance fraud

If you are facing insurance fraud or other white collar crime charges, turn to an experienced Colorado insurance fraud lawyer at our office. Contact us to schedule your free consultation with attorney H. Michael Steinberg today.

There are some situations that may result in dropped or decreased charges for insurance fraud, especially if you were unaware of the fraudulent activity of another party in the scam. Working with an attorney that will represent your interests in court and attempt to get the charges decreased or minimized to a misdemeanor is important. Insurance fraud charges will have a very negative impact on your life and may make it almost impossible for your to find insurance or gainful employment after the sentence is completed.

Our law office is located at I-25 and Arapahoe Road – in the DTC Area of Denver

If you are facing insurance fraud charges, turn to Philadelphia insurance fraud lawyer Randolph Goldman. Mr. Goldman has over 26 years of criminal law experience and white collar crimes experience. He provides his clients with exceptional and aggressive insurance fraud defense representation.

 

* Credit is given to Wikipedia for the research behind this article on Colorado and Federal Insurance Fraud


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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