Insurance Fraud: Taking a Closer Look at Car Fires and Theft

Think insurance fraud is just bogus policies and false claims? Think again. Esurance has an entire team devoted to investigating fire and theft fraud.

People often think that we don’t have real people working behind the scenes at Esurance because we’re a company born online. But that’s simply not the case. In fact, we have over 3,000 associates around the country who do everything from figuring out insurance rates to writing blog posts (that’s me!) to answering your insurance questions. And, of course, we’ve got a dedicated claims team to help you out if you ever have an accident.

Then there’s the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), our team of crack investigators who fight against all types of insurance fraud. I told you a little about what they do in yesterday’s post. But, with the recent launch of our specialized fire and theft team, they now have even more expertise at their fingertips.

I spoke to Geoff Keah, an SIU manager, and he explained how it works.

Why launch a fire and theft unit?

The simple answer is to streamline the process. Since Esurance already had a team of claims adjusters dedicated to fire and theft, it made sense to create the SIU team to investigate the fire and theft claims that seem a little … er … suspicious.

There are several benefits to having a whole team devoted to investigating fire and theft fraud. For one, it allows the investigators to become specialists in their area — and that means better fraud detection. Secondly, the smaller group makes it easier to build a rapport between the claims adjusters and the SIU members, leading to better intel. And finally, because we have SIU members in offices around the country, the specialization ensures that we handle these cases consistently between offices.

Training for fire and theft specialists

You can’t become a specialist without some education, so Geoff wanted to ensure that the new team would see it all. In November, he brought claims and SIU investigators together for their inaugural fire and theft training.

The training, which covered things like best practices and how to take recorded statements, culminated in a controlled live burn exercise. During this exercise, multiple vehicles were set ablaze so attendees could see the differences between accidental and incendiary, or intentional, fires (check out the pictures below). While we’d love to go into more depth about how to tell the difference, obviously we can’t give away trade secrets. Suffice to say, would-be fraudsters leave behind plenty of evidence.

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SIU and law enforcement fight insurance fraud together

Because SIU teams work so closely with law enforcement, it makes sense that they’d also train together. So when local law enforcement decides to set up a burn training session with their officers, they ask insurance companies to donate their salvaged cars and invite their investigators to join the training.

The fire department also gets in on the action, donating their engines for fire suppression and giving their newer firefighters a chance to practice extinguishing fires.

Everybody wins! (Well, except for the fraudsters.)

About Geoff Keah

Geoff is a past president and a current board member of the North Texas Fire Investigators’ Association. He also has contacts in local law enforcement as well as SIU teams at other insurance companies.

Related link

Read up on fraud and our Special Investigations Unit

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