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NZ industry, police jump on earthquake insurance fraud

The New Zealand insurance industry and police are stepping up the message on insurance fraud as instances emerge from the Christchurch earthquakes.

Cases include householders moving goods elsewhere and then claiming for loss or making up invoices for emergency repairs.

The Insurance Council of New Zealand is liaising with local media to counter the view that insurance fraud is a victimless crime.

Spokesman Brett Solvander says the council is pushing the message that policyholders will ultimately pay for fraud and “if we can find evidence of fraud we will take it to the police”.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Rae, who heads the Christchurch Fraud Squad, says some householders have tried to get insurance payments from both the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and private insurers.

He told the fraud is relatively unsophisticated.

“None of these people are rocket scientists.”

The police are preparing a case against a business owner who they claim received $NZ1.5 million ($1.2 million) in lost profits insurance for non-existent contracts.

Det Snr Sgt Rae says there is less tolerance of fraud against the state-owned EQC, as the community equates it with benefit fraud and people will call to report it.

He says although overseas evidence suggests there will be an element of fraud in 10% of disaster claims, he is not seeing that level in Christchurch.

Police are able to deal with claims so far due to the work of EQC and private insurers’ investigators in gathering evidence.

Det Snr Sgt Rae says many of the investigators are former police detectives who know how to document evidence.

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