Some Manitobans dreamed up creative ways to defraud Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) in 2021, ranging from a false kidnapping to claiming a dog darted in front of the car causing a crash.
On Wednesday, MPI released its top five auto insurance frauds, highlighting some of the situations the organization had to investigate to determine if the claims were legitimate.
“MPI releases its annual top five fraud list to raise awareness about the costs related to auto insurance fraud,” said Satvir Jatana, MPI’s Chief Customer Officer, in a statement. “The list is compiled based on the unique circumstances of each fraud, financial savings to MPI ratepayers, and the investigative techniques used in confirming fraudulent activity.”
According to MPI, the organization’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) closed 1,000 investigations, resulting in savings of approximately $14 million on claims.
MPI said their top-ranked claim of the year involved a Winnipeg woman who told MPI her vehicle was stolen out of her garage. She said she was messaged by the thieves on Facebook, and she agreed to meet them. The woman claimed she was kidnapped, with the thieves speeding around with her for hours before crashing her vehicle.
SIU started investigating and found the vehicle would not run without a key being inserted into the ignition. The owner confirmed she had all the keys in her possession and then admitted she lied about being kidnapped. She said she was driving in a vehicle with friends drinking and speeding around the city when they crashed into another vehicle and left the scene.
The claim was denied and MPI said they saved $68,000 on the claim.
The second-ranked claim on the list involved a 20-year-old driver who said he fell asleep at the wheel, drove off the road and crashed into several parked cars. The driver said he was travelling at 55 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, but MPI said the extent of the damage contradicted the story.
“A download of the vehicle’s Data Crash Recorder indicated the vehicle was travelling at nearly 140 km/h at time of impact,” MPI said in a statement. “The brake pedal was not applied and seatbelts were unbuckled. Surveillance footage was also taken from various locations on the travelled road, showing the vehicle was racing with another vehicle seconds before the crash.”
The collision claim was denied and MPI said they’re currently working to recover costs from the driver. MPI estimates it saved $150,000 from the claim.
The third-ranked claim involved a Winnipeg truck driver who was injured in a crash while hauling a load. The driver was entitled to receive income replacement benefits and personal care assistance benefits, and told his MPI case manager his injuries prevented him from lifting his arms above his shoulders, lifting heavy objects, driving more than 15 minutes, or working his regular job.
MPI received information the man was working while collecting benefits, and surveillance showed the driver working, driving many hours a day and carrying a large number of objects, including wooden crates.
The driver’s benefits were terminated and he was also charged with fraud over $5,000 and making a false statement. MPI said this saved the organization more than $700,000.
The fourth-ranked fraud involved two people opening separate collision claims, with one person admitting they were responsible for a T-bone crash at an intersection. The investigator reviewed surveillance footage of the crash, which showed both vehicles slowly travelling through the intersection several times, and both vehicles were deliberately placed in a T-bone position, with one car slightly speeding up to hit the other.
One of the owners admitted to MPI he and his friend planned the staged crash to write off their vehicles. MPI saved nearly $15,300 from the claim.
The final claim saw a woman in Winnipeg open a collision claim saying a dog ran onto the road, causing her to swerve and hit a pole and a large flower pot on the yard of a private home, causing significant damage. The woman also gave the name of a third-party witness who told the MPI adjuster the woman was driving and swerved to avoid the dog. MPI determined the driver wasn’t at fault, and the owners of the property didn’t need to be compensated.
The property owners then gave MPI video footage of the crash, clearly showing no dog ran across the road, and a man was driving the vehicle.
When the new information was presented, the woman admitted to lying to protect her boyfriend, who was driving without a valid licence. The witness would later admit they arrived at the crash after the fact and didn’t see a dog.
MPI is looking to recover costs from the unlicensed driver and the organization said it saved $29,840.08 from the claim.
MPI says anyone with concerns about possible auto insurance fraud can call the MPI TIPS Line at 204-985-8477 or toll-free at 1-877-985-8477.