Imagine coming home from a long day at work. You climb on a full bus. Soon the vehicle suddenly screeches to a halt. An elderly man outside falls onto the pavement. The bus hit him at a stop light, he screams in seeming pain. The passengers have to clear out, and you’re still a mile from home.
You hear ambulance sirens rushing to the scene. Yet nobody’s fooled. Children and adult passengers are calling out this fraudster. They’re yelling things like, “He just wants to get money!”
You remember sitting in the front of the bus, and it never touched the man … at all. No bump, no thump.
If you’re wondering if that insurance grab happened … it did … to me.
I’m an insurance-fraud researcher with the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. I read about and see videos of fraudsters faking slip and falls all the time. They seemed like a fantasy until I saw this guy’s scam first-hand.
Slip-and-fall cons may steal billions of dollars a year. Honest businesses are sued. They pay in higher premiums. We pay in higher prices at the cash register.
Some fraudsters place liquid detergent or other slippery stuff on supermarket floors. They sit down on the floor and scream they slipped on the mess. They’re blithely unaware that security cams record every false move.
Selena Edwards of California claimed a scalding cup of hot coffee with a loose lid slipped off and burned her hand at a McDonald’s drive-thru. But she’d used a photo of someone else’s burned hand. And her medical records also were forged. Edwards was convicted.
Some consumers even joke about it on social media.
Slip-and-falls are a quick way to make big bucks, people often yack. Search the hash tag #BoutToSlip on Twitter. You’ll see youngsters joking about slipping and falling to claim insurance money. This kind of peer-to-peer chatter can egg others to fake a money-grabbing slips.
Or check out the #insurancefraud hash tags on Vine and Instagram. Plenty of quick videos of young people joking how to pay college tuition by scamming insurers with bogus tumbles.
My experience on the bus plus my research with the Coalition made one thing clear: Slip-and-falls are a big waste for everyone. This is especially true of scammers who end up with permanent criminal records after their cons slipped, fell and broke.
About the author: Elijah Mercer is research associate of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.