Thursday, March 21, 2013

Put brakes on fraud

With Toronto holding the unenviable distinction of being the urban centre with the highest number of staged motor vehicle collisions in Canada, the Service’s Financial Crimes Unit has collaborated with Traffic and Video Services and the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to produce three public service announcements (PSA) and infographics launched on March 21. 

D/Sgt. Cam Field said auto insurance fraud cost Canadian insurance-policy holders nearly $1 billion annually. It also takes up a lot of valuable police and other regulatory agencies resources.

“These short, but direct, PSAs are intended to educate the public about auto insurance and accident fraud,” Field said.

“We are providing people with a checklist of the things they need to do and courses of action to follow.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has identified Toronto as having the most staged motor vehicle collisions. Some fraudsters will stage collisions, deliberately hit other motorists to claim fake injuries or cause additional damage to their vehicle after a collision to make larger claims against insurers.

To protect themselves against insurance fraud, drivers are reminded to use a licensed insurance company, agent or broker when purchasing auto insurance; collect as much information as possible at the accident scene, using a camera or cell phone if it is safe to do so without confrontation; file an accident report with a collision-reporting centre and be suspicious of any referrals at collision sites.

“Often people get into a collision and a tow truck shows up and tries to refer them to certain auto body shops,” Field said.

“Don’t do that. Phone your insurance company and take instructions from them… Take careful notes, grab witnesses and take pictures – if possible – so you can build a case for your insurance company to help you.”

FSCO senior communications officer Kristen Rose said drivers can help stem auto insurance fraud by being vigilant at a collision scene.

“Collisions are stressful,” she said.

“Shock and excitement make it hard to think clearly. Unfortunately, some fraudsters try to use the confusion of the moment to fake injuries, exaggerate damage or intimidate drivers into using certain services. The PSAs and infographics will help people navigate three key things they need to do after a collision to protect themselves from fraud. They should collect information about the collision, file a report and make key decisions at the scene of the collision.”

Marty Blake of Video Services said the project was a great example of teamwork and co-operation.

“By sharing the research production and communication resources at our disposal, we are able to communicate with the public more efficiently and effectively to reduce victimization,” he said.

“Given the current fiscal climate, these types of inter-agency partnerships and resource-sharing are becoming increasingly important.”

The PSAs are launched during March, which is national fraud prevention month.

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