From 2 Investigators
CHICAGO (CBS) — One type of insurance scam is repeatedly caught on tape: bogus slip-and-fall accidents. These types of claims cost American consumers billions of dollars, including in higher insurance premiums.
2 Investigator Dave Savini reviewed numerous videos with Mark Sakalares, a special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which is headquartered in Des Plaines.
“There’s the terrible fall,” Sakalares said while watching a video of a man caught on tape taking a tumble. “And here comes the friend to help him now.”
But moments before the fall, the two were caught on surveillance camera scouting out the location.
In another video, an alleged scammer pours cider and puts a piece of fruit on the ground before tumbling.
Sakalares says the poor economy has led to an increase in these kinds of scams.
Nationwide, in 2008, the NICB reported 1,143 suspicious cases. Last year, there were 1,421 cases, which is a 24 percent increase. In Illinois, the bogus claims climbed by 80 percent during the same time span. In 2008, there were 46 cases, and the number spiked to 83 suspicious fraud cases in 2010.
“It’s huge, it’s gigantic,” Sakalares said.
Fraudulent claims easily top $1 billion.
In more surveillance videos, a woman pretends to slip on a hot dog. Her alleged accomplice was caught on tape buying the hot dog, with a child by his side, then planting it before she fell. Both were convicted of fraud.
“It’s rather ridiculous to see them sometimes,” Sakalares says. “You will see people come in and pour the water on the floor, or they will take a bottle of oil off the shelf and pour some oil on the floor.”
One female team caught in the act was dubbed “The Hair Pair.” One appears to fall, but prior moments caught on tape revealed one woman spreading liquid on the floor and then getting into position and fixing her hair. The pair wanted $300,000, but were prosecuted instead.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Sakalares. “And they’re fighting it the best they can — the insurance companies are.”
Chicago ranks in the top five for cities with the most fraud cases. NICB officials say the trend may continue unless more fraudulent claims are prosecuted and unless punishments are strict.