So, an investigative firm was brought in. It built an initial profile by Google searching and querying online databases. What would have taken a week several years ago now could be done in a matter of minutes.
The investigators confirmed the claimant's address and got his vehicle registration.
A criminal history search revealed a litany of Florida?based criminal charges, sharges that included theft and insurance fraud.
His criminal information was in Florida's online public records. Proprietary databases, accessible by licensed private detective agencies, will in a flash serve up address histories, driver's license, social security verification, property and vehicle ownership, bankruptcy filings and commercial transactions as well as criminal records.
"We also learned online that the claimant previously resided in Ohio where he owned and operated a barbecue business," says Ed Cotilla of Ethos Investigative Services. Cotilla related this case to show me how in many ways information technology has changed the business of catching claimant fraud.
Technology breakthroughs in workers' compensation often trigger eye-popping gains in productivity and quality of the end product.
"From there we conducted a business license search by name of owner in Florida and, lo and behold, found out that the claimant filed for a license in Florida for his barbecue business just a few weeks prior to his alleged work- related injury."
With this information, the firm did a bit more digging and found out that the claimant's barbecue business was fully operational in Florida. He had recently catered several functions in his town including a church picnic and a local music fest. "We printed out a church bulletin that we obtained via Google search indicating that the claimant catered one of its events after the date of loss."
With some video evidence, prosecutors were able to get a conviction and restitution.
Most local and state governments along with the Feds have converted their public records to digital format and have made them available for public access on the internet.
It wasn't long ago that public information such as criminal and civil records could only be obtained by making a personal visit to the local county courthouse and reviewing records on microfiche or in large plat books stored in the stale air basement of the courthouse. To conduct a statewide criminal search, an exhaustive effort of visiting each county in the state to search felony and misdemeanor record was required. Oh, how 1990s.
The same technology that aids fraud search has also made preplacement checks much more viable. Time on task has plummeted, reducing by 90 percent the cost of a background check. For $50, you can confirm an applicant's address history, verify social security number and find any criminal history.
For a little more money in many states you can run a workers' compensation history search to ascertain if an applicant has a history of workers' compensation claims. It's important to note that this search can only be conducted post hire.
High-tech sleuthing has made it easier to combat claimant fraud and the claims staff must report red flags and employ fraud specialists for technology to do what it can.
PETER ROUSMANIERE is a Vermont-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
October 15, 2008
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