The Utah Gumshoe: Fraudulent Property Claims 5 Red Flags
- June 28, 2016
- by Scott Fulmer
- Business Tips
Listen: Fraudulent Property Claims 5 Red Flags
Red flags are a series of conditions or behaviors commonly found in fraudulent claims. One or two red flags does not necessarily constitute fraud. But you should, at the very least, be aware of the more common red flags found in fraudulent property claims. By the way, this list is not all-inclusive:
Red Flag #1: No Sign of Forced Entry
This is one of the more common red flags found in fraudulent theft claims. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the claim is fraudulent. When I encounter a theft claim where there is no sign of forced entry I am reminded of Silver Blaze, the great Sherlock Holmes short story published in 1892. The story revolved around the disappearance of a race horse and the murder of the horse’s trainer:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
The point to which Holmes was making was that the dog, which was present when the horse was stolen and the murder occurred, did not bark. The dog didn’t bark because he was familiar with the perpetrator. No sign of forced entry may indicate that the theft was an inside job. It may have been carried out by someone who didn’t have to break into the home. Someone like the insured, himself. Or family members, other occupants in the home, domestic help, caregivers or even visitors.
Red Flag #2: Family Heirlooms Stolen
I know this sounds nuts but it’s actually quite common to have precious family heirlooms listed as missing in a fraudulent property claim. Curiously, the family heirlooms may or may not be particularly valuable. In fact, in many cases the items have no real value to anyone other than family members. The family items may also have been stored in closets, boxed up in storage or in out-of-the-way-places a thief would not necessarily search. Yet, these family heirlooms are missing. This can also be part and parcel to the insured filing the claim weeks or even months after the date of loss. That’s because the insured often doesn’t realize the items are missing until much later. For example, I had a case in Eagle, Idaho where the insured’s antique silverware set was stolen. The insured didn’t realize the silverware set was stolen until he began preparing for a formal Christmas dinner with friends and couldn’t locate it.
Red Flag #3: Cash Stolen
In most cases, people don’t keep $10,000.00 in cash in their home. But if they do, they hide it. Which, of course, begs the question how did the thief find the money. The theft could be fraudulent or the thief may be a family member (see Red Flag #2 for your culprit). I once had a case in Provo, Utah where the insured stated that he hid rare coins in a sock and then used a rope to tie the sock to the back of a drawer. The sock then, hung down from the drawer, inside a dresser. The thief would’ve had to completely remove the drawer from the dresser to discover the sock hanging by a rope in the back. In my interview with him he stated that the drawers were closed when he returned and discovered the theft. I found this suspicious because most burglars pull drawers out (starting at the bottom of the dresser and moving their way up) as they quickly ransack looking for valuables. Yet, these coins were missing. Adjusters will want to know about the origin of the money. Was it a gift? From whom? Did you withdraw it from the bank? If so, request the bank statement.
Red Flag #4: No Police Report Filed
In fraudulent theft claims you will often discover that a police report was never filed. Or, the police report was filed weeks or even months after the theft or it was filed by the insured, in-person at the police department. And finally,
Red Flag #5: Appraised Items Stolen
In fraudulent theft claims, appraised items, such as jewelry or art, are often listed as missing. Especially if the items were appraised recently. Make sure you get a copy of the appraisal and don’t be afraid to meet with the appraiser. Show him the receipt and his signature and confirm that the appraisal took place and that the receipt presented came from him. And make sure the appraised amounts are what the appraiser originally indicated.
Let me reiterate again that one or two red flags does not necessarily constitute a fraudulent property claim. I would also add that when you conduct these types of investigations make sure you verify whether or not the local pawn shops are required to report all sales to the police department.
Until next time,
This is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe, reminding you the game…if afoot!
About The Utah Gumshoe Podcast
The Utah Gumshoe Podcast follows the real-life exploits, riveting case stories, investigative tips and insightful advice of Scott Fulmer, The Utah Gumshoe. Scott is a 20 year veteran Utah private investigator, surveillance expert and President/CEO of Utah Gumshoe, a private investigation firm based in Salt Lake City.
He has written numerous articles on investigative and surveillance techniques that have appeared in PInow.com and other industry journals. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he served with the famous 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels). Whether you're a novice or an experienced investigator this is the podcast for you.
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