Insurance fraud: a growing threat


What do these anecdotes have in common?

* A Los Angeles doctor was charged with 30 counts of fraud after submitting psychotherapy bills for a dead man.

* A man in South Carolina recruited members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang to torch his oceanfront home so he could collect $1.65 million in insurance payments.

* After a minor bus accident in Philadelphia, 11 people filed injury claims. The problem was, the bus was empty when it crashed -- except for the driver.

They are examples of insurance fraud -- a growing menace to American consumers. To help fight the problem, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud was unveiled last week in Washington. Its goal is to push for tougher fraud laws at the state and federal levels.

The coalition is made up of consumer groups, insurance companies and government agencies.

The coalition says it wants to change how people feel about insurance fraud. According to surveys, many consumers view insurance fraud as a victimless crime justified by high insurance premiums.

Those findings were puzzling to Adrian Tocklin, executive vice president of the Continental Insurance Co. and co-chair of the coalition.

"When you cheat, it means I must pay for you," she said. "Why should I do that?"

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