The number of Manitobans charged with auto insurance fraud has nearly tripled since last year, says Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI).
The insurer said Wednesday that by the end of July 2020, there had been 88 fraud charges laid against 33 people — a sharp rise from 30 charges against 10 people over the same period in 2019.
MPI executive Curtis Wennberg said part of the uptick is due to MPI’s increased efforts in investigating suspicious claims.
MPI’s special investigation unit (SIU) handles suspicious claims, and its work in 1,200-plus investigations saved more than $10 million for MPI ratepayers last year, the Crown corporation said.
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“MPI has adopted a business change to emphasize that insurance fraud is a crime, and pursue both a denial of coverage and charges going forward,” said Wennberg.
“Following extensive investigations, these files are forwarded to the provincial prosecution office for review.”
Wennberg said fraud-related charges can fall within the Criminal Code, the MPIC Act or the Highway Traffic Act, and that a conviction in any case is “a serious consequence.”
Potential charges that can be laid include making a false statement, fraud over $5,000 and fraud under $5,000, with penalties like financial fines, criminal charges or restitution orders to pay back MPI.
“A criminal record can affect travelling across the border, employment or business opportunities,” said Wennberg.
“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and this criminal activity affects honest Manitobans through their premiums.”