A recent Pasco County case of insurance fraud helps to demonstrate how the practice can hurt the insured.
“Supposedly, 30 cents of every claim dollar is lost to some kind of fraud, that’s the national statistic,” said Stacey Giulianti, co-founder and chief legal officer for Florida Peninsula Insurance Company. “In Florida alone, it costs companies and consumers $ 30 billion a year of insurance.”
Giulianti added that homeowners’ premiums in the state are approximately $ 900 higher annually than other states because of fraud.
Florida Peninsula has its own in-house Special Investigations Unit that is responsible for investigating consumers, employees, contractors, public adjustors and taking that evidence to the department of financial services, local sheriff’s office, or the state, Giulianti said.
A common fraud tactic is consumers claiming old damage as new, which was the recent case for a Pasco resident who reported a claim for wind damage to his roof and screened pool enclosure. Matthew Brown made the claim seven days after his policy’s inception in 2020, but a review revealed he filed the same claim with a different insurance agency that had denied coverage. An engineer determined the situation was not due to wind damage, the same conclusion as the previous agency.
Brown was arrested on a charge of insurance fraud of less than $ 20,000, a third-degree felony, on April 6.
Giulianti said he recommends checking for recommendations with neighbors upon hiring a contractor, making sure the contractor is licensed and not a scammer from out of town taking advantage of a recent storm or weather event, and never believing when a contractor says they can pay your deductible .
“We’ve seen people knocking on doors saying,‘ Hey, I can get you a new roof and your insurance company will pay for it, ’” Giulianti said. “Even if the homeowner says they don’t have any damage, and the contractor replies that it doesn’t matter, they can get the insurance company to pay anyway and cover your deductible – it’s illegal, you can’t offer to cover someone’s deductible. ”
There’s also public adjustor fraud, Giulianti added. An adjustor can exaggerate claims to get more money for the customer and themselves. An example may be taking a $ 5,000 loss and claiming it as a $ 100,000 loss using a contractor in their pocket.
If you suspect your neighbor of committing insurance fraud, report it, Giulianti said. “It costs everybody. If they have to pay out for fraud or exaggerated claims, they have to take that from policyholder funds. It’s the only place it comes from. ”
Consumers can report suspected fraud to their insurance company or at myfloridacfo.com/fraudfreeflorida.