The things people will do for insurance money

When the going gets tough, the crooks get creative

In Summary

• People maim, kill and disappear themselves just to cash in fraudulently

Image: OZONE

The global economy has taken a beating, and ordinary people in cities like Cape Town, Nairobi, London, Mumbai, New York and elsewhere can show you their bruises as a result of this battering.

Some say this is one of the harshest economic climates experienced since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, which was one of the worst financial crises in modern history. 

There is a saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But after reading the latest report from the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), I think that saying needs an update.

Perhaps it really should say: When the going gets tough, the crooks get creative.

I say this because, according to the head of SAFPS, which monitors fraud trends globally, the cost of living crisis is putting many people in a difficult financial position.

The SAFPS chief said reports out of the United Kingdom, for instance, show that people are increasingly considering turning towards fraud to relieve this pressure. 

Research by the UK’s Insurance Fraud Bureau shows that one in four young adults now say they would 'likely' consider an act of insurance fraud if they were struggling financially.

This is a marked increase when compared to the same survey results taken last year, when the figure was one in five.

South Africa's Insurance Crime Bureau says while it may not have access to the same kind of information that the Insurance Fraud Bureau does, it is aware of the current economic climate and the overall impact it has on the insurance industry.  

The ICB thinks there probably is an increase in the same age brackets where youngsters are feeling economic pressure and unemployed.

All this talk of insurance fraud reminded me of a big news story a couple of years ago here in South Africa, where a policewoman, Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu killed five family members and her boyfriend for life insurance.

If you have access to Showmax, you can see this gory story of how this police officer allegedly insured her family members then went on a killing spree, wiping them out with the help of hitmen then claiming from insurance companies, retold in the true crime original show, “Rosemary's Hitlist”.

By the time the killing spree, which started in 2012, came to an end in 2018, six people had been brutally killed, and she had allegedly received almost R1.4 million (about Sh10.8 million) in insurance claims.

Ndlovu, however, wasn’t carrying out the insurance fraud because she particularly needed the money. In fact, there was no evidence that she had done anything useful with the money, she just seemed to have a thing about getting people killed.

There was also the story from May 2008, of US citizen Gerald B Hardin, 34, and another unnamed person, who sawed off the hand of their mentally challenged friend Michael Weaver. 

Weaver reportedly viewed Hardin as a father figure and agreed to have his hand sawed off so Hardin, a known drug user, could claim compensation for the accident on six different policies.

The three then submitted claims against a homeowner’s insurance policy and three accidental death and dismemberment policies and received more than $671,000.

The case was investigated by agents of the FBI and Hardin was sentenced to five years in prison for the crime.

Then there was the British couple John and Anne Darwin, immortalised on screen in a number of documentaries and a recent mini-series, ‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe’.

Back in 2002, the couple were drowning in debt and came to the conclusion that they could solve all their problems if John faked his death.

When John reportedly disappeared in a canoeing accident in 2002, Anne cashed in on £680,000 worth of life insurance claims and paid their debts.

They then reappeared under assumed identities in Panama, where everything was going great until a social media post featuring their faces was seen by friends and relatives, leading to their arrest and eventual six-year jail terms for each.

Don’t try this stuff. Rather, follow me on X @MwangiGithahu

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