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Fire and Fraud

We all know the power of fire. Prometheus the Titan in Greek mythology stole fire from fire fraudMount Olympus and gave it to mankind. That fire has been used since as a metaphor for the enlightening of the human race.

But we also know fire burns and scorches everything in its path if left unchecked. This is why it is the method of choice for arsonist and fraudsters trying to get an unfair benefit while destroying any evidence of their wrong doing. Fraud costs insurance companies an estimated $2.2 billion a year according to the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Australia. If an insurer is vigilant and proactive at the start of a fire claim, then it makes the investigation process thorough and systematic as evidenced in the court ruling in insurer’s favour against a fraudulent insured as reported in the Age.

Pizza shop owner was insured by one of our clients when a fire broke out in his pizza shop in 2013. Once our fire investigator concluded that the cause of the loss was arson a factual investigator was appointed. The investigator worked closely with the Police and over many painstaking months, they put a case together against the insured.

The owner enticed a regular customer with a significant payout to torch the pizza shop so that they could claim the insurance money. In the course of dousing the shop with petrol, the customer slipped over and soaked his jeans. Rather than cutting his losses at this point, the customer went ahead and lit a match which engulfed the shop and his leg and ended up with burns on 30% of his body.

The customer then ran to a car where the owner had been waiting as planned but was not rushed to hospital. Instead he was taken to a female friend’s house where he re-enacted the arson and admitted to her sons that it was an “insurance job”. After 36 hours, due to the pain caused by the burns, the customer was taken to hospital where he spent the next 3 months. He agreed to co-operate with the Police for a reduced sentence.

The customer received a 22 month sentence & the owner is to be sentenced on Feb 6.

The whole case has taken 3 years to be finalised, and the key learning is to appoint the right people for right task and not to falter even when pressure is exerted to get a quick resolution. There are aspects that are out of your control (i.e. Police investigation) and that is where you have to trust the people associated with the claim. I would like to thank each and every person that was involved in this claim allowing us to get a satisfactory outcome against a fraudulent insured.

Written by Ray Gichuru



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