8 WORST INSURANCE CRIMINALS OF 2016 NAMED


Staff Reports



BBB Scam Spotlight: February 2017

Columbus, OH (March 8, 2017) - March 5-11 is National Consumer Protection Week, which focuses on protecting consumers from scams and money-loss. BBB is partnering with multiple organizations to help educate Central Ohio consumers on different types of scams, schemes and dishonest business practices.

Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker. In February, consumers reported losing a total of $1,033 out of $16,183 attempted dollars.

BBB analyzed over 100 Scam Tracker reports from February 2017 to shed a spotlight on scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

Can You Hear Me? Scam: 90% of the total scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker in February involved a caller asking a consumer “Can You Hear Me?” or other questions in an attempt to get a “yes” answer. Once the consumer says yes, their affirmative may be recorded and used at a later time to say they agreed to a payment or a product.

BBB recommends screening your calls and only answering numbers you recognize. If the call is important, there will be a voicemail. If you receive any calls asking “Can you hear me?” or any other questions that seem to be fishing for a yes, hang up immediately.

Facebook Government Grant Scam: A Reynoldsburg, Ohio woman reported that she received a call from someone claiming she had been referred to her via Facebook and qualified for a government grant. The woman was instructed to text an attorney and was given a number. After texting him, the “attorney” asked her name, and said he would search their database to see if she was eligible for the government grant. He confirmed later that she was eligible for a $20,000 grant, but she had to send him $200 first. At that time, she did not have the money and was told to contact him again when she did.

She was later contacted by both scammers, and again explained that she didn’t have the money. After both denied working together, she grew suspicious and ended contact.

How the scam works: You receive a new friend request along with a message, or a message from a current Facebook friend detailing information on free grant money from the government. The message might include other Facebook users who have successfully received “grant money” to look more credible. The message may also have a link to a law office or phony government website. The scammer could list a real U.S. Government website, address or phone number to appear legitimate. In the end, you will be asked for personal information and a payment for processing fees.

BBB urges any consumers who receive messages concerning government grants on Facebook to not respond, and block or unfriend the person right away. If the message came from a friend you know in real life, it is possible their account may have been hacked.

The United States Government will not contact you directly for loans, or require that you pay any sort of fee.

A Bitcoin Scam: Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system that uses its own currency to transact business. Bitcoins are not issued by banks or governments, but was designed as an alternative to national currencies.

A man from Groveport, Ohio reported finding a website titled cloud-m.biz advertising investment returns of 10% per day. He decided to invest and sent 0.030589 Bitcoins (worth $34.83 USD) to a username using Coinbase. The next day, $3.45 was sent to his Bitcoin account, making it seem like cloud-m.biz was a legitimate site for investment. After making another payment for investment, he went to login the next day and found that the site’s name had changed to bitfin.biz and he was no longer able to sign in. The website looked the same with the name change being the only difference. After his initial investments, he lost a total of $543.

Like with any investment, losing money is a possibility. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has issued an Investor Alert about Bitcoins, calling them “more than a bit risky” as an investment.

Before investing or shopping online, BBB recommends researching the company on bbb.org. Consumers should consider paying with a credit card, because charges can be disputed after a purchase if something were to go wrong.

For more information on finding businesses you can trust, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

Since 1912, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB serving Central Ohio was founded in 1921, and serving 21 counties in Ohio, is one of 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Extreme schemers reveal high costs of insurance scams in America; Swindles hit consumers for $80 billion a year, driving premiums higher.

WASHINGTON – Jan. 18, 2017 -Â America’s largest-ever no-fault auto whiplash crash scheme … a bungling arsonist who blew up much of his neighborhood (killing the couple next door) … a “caregiver” who starved a cerebral palsy victim to death while stealing Medicaid money … and a Miami doctor who falsely prescribed $60 million of powerful mental-illness medications for patients whether they needed them or not.

The swindlers who launched these and other extreme schemes have been named by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud to the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame as the “eight worst insurance criminals of 2016.”

The Hall of Shame highlights the year’s most brazen, bungling or vicious convicted insurance swindlers. The “2016 Hall of Shame” is available online at http://www.insurancefraud.org/hall-of-shame.htm.

Many insurers see evidence that insurance fraud is growing, said Dennis Jay, executive director of the Coalition.

“One of America’s largest financial crimes, insurance fraud steals at least $80 billion annually. Too many Americans tolerate fraud and are at risk of committing this crime,” Jay said. “Innocent people are traumatized, maimed and lose their savings. Some die. Consumers everywhere pay higher premiums. Insurance cheats need to know they’ll be found and prosecuted.”

The insurance swindles highlighted in the Coalition’s 2016 list are:

BURNING DOWN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (Indianapolis). Did an arson fire or drone strike wreck the neighborhood in a tree-lined Indianapolis neighborhood? Hard to tell the difference after Bob Leonard helped open a natural gas line inside the home. He wanted to trigger an arson blaze for a false $300,000 insurance claim. His half-brother Mark and live-in girlfriend planned to make the fraudulent insurance claim. They blew up much of the neighborhood, killing two next door neighbors.

WHIPLASH FACTORY (New York City). Michael Danilovich viewed auto insurers as his personal pinatas. The New York man staged hundreds car crashes. He helped mastermind the largest no-fault looting of insurers from setup car wrecks in U.S. history. It was a behemoth $279-million binge of false whiplash insurance claims throughout the New York City area. Small wonder that honest New York drivers pay some of the highest auto premiums in the U.S. – crash rings steal hundreds of millions from insurers in New York. The insurance-fraud losses get passed on.Â

LAWLESS LIBIDO (San Francisco). John Alfonzo Smiley turned a night of sex frolicking into a dodgy workers-compensation claim. Then fraud investigators exposed the prison guard’s X-rated exploits and sent him to jail for insurance fraud. Smiley was shot and paralyzed from the waist down when he and his wife left a San Francisco swingers club after dinner, he told investigators. Smiley said he was shot by a former inmate. That was a lie.

BAMBI MEETS MOB (Philadelphia). Bloody deer parts and dozens of setup car crashes (some involving deer-blood-soaked and sledgehammer damages) were the heart of Ronald Galati’s $5-million soaking of auto insurers with inflated car repair bills. And in mob style, he nearly had a witness shot. Galati ran a network of corrupt insurance adjusters, tow-truck drivers and a Philadelphia police officer, plus his own repair customers. He was an associate of Philadelphia mobsters, even employing the wife of a reputed mobster.

BAD SAMARITAN (Portland, OR). Shannon Egeland claimed to have stopped to help a pregnant woman stranded on a roadside late one summer night near Caldwell, Idaho. It was an ambush. Someone snuck up and shot him, shattering his legs and forcing surgeons to amputate his left foot. Or so the former Idaho developer told his disability insurer. It turned out to be a plot involving his son, who shot him in order to defraud an insurance company. (Note: This scam occurred in Idaho and the related conviction was in Oregon).

BABY MURDERED (Washington DC). Moussa Sissoko seemed to care deeply about his infant boy, Shane, even giving up college to share parenting in suburban Washington, D.C. In truth, Sissoko cared so much that he bought a $750,000 life-insurance policy on Shane and murdered him soon afterward.

KILLER CAREGIVER (Dayton, OH). A 14-year-old cerebral palsy victim was allowed to starve to death, reduced to a 28-pound skeleton. She had open bedsores and her diaper wasn’t changed. Her hair was infested with lice. Mollie Parsons, the “caregiver” of Makayla, collected Medicaid checks while the teen was left to die.

MENTAL ERROR (Miami). Mental illness made Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil rich and taxpayers that much poorer. The Miami psychiatrist spooned out epidemic levels of unneeded antipsychotic drugs to seniors in Medicare and lower-income people in Medicaid -Â $60 million in false claims. Mendez-Villamil became a national icon of overprescribing. He peddled nearly 97,000 scripts for powerful drugs to Medicaid patients between 2007 and 2009 — more mental-health meds then doled out by any other doctor in Florida.

ABOUT THE COALITION

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is a national nonprofit alliance of more than 150 organizations representing consumers, government agencies, insurers and other businesses. Founded in 1993, the Coalition combats all forms of insurance fraud through legislation, consumer education and research.

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Staff Reports

BBB Scam Spotlight: February 2017

Columbus, OH (March 8, 2017) – March 5-11 is National Consumer Protection Week, which focuses on protecting consumers from scams and money-loss. BBB is partnering with multiple organizations to help educate Central Ohio consumers on different types of scams, schemes and dishonest business practices.

Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker. In February, consumers reported losing a total of $1,033 out of $16,183 attempted dollars.

BBB analyzed over 100 Scam Tracker reports from February 2017 to shed a spotlight on scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

Can You Hear Me? Scam: 90% of the total scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker in February involved a caller asking a consumer “Can You Hear Me?” or other questions in an attempt to get a “yes” answer. Once the consumer says yes, their affirmative may be recorded and used at a later time to say they agreed to a payment or a product.

BBB recommends screening your calls and only answering numbers you recognize. If the call is important, there will be a voicemail. If you receive any calls asking “Can you hear me?” or any other questions that seem to be fishing for a yes, hang up immediately.

Facebook Government Grant Scam: A Reynoldsburg, Ohio woman reported that she received a call from someone claiming she had been referred to her via Facebook and qualified for a government grant. The woman was instructed to text an attorney and was given a number. After texting him, the “attorney” asked her name, and said he would search their database to see if she was eligible for the government grant. He confirmed later that she was eligible for a $20,000 grant, but she had to send him $200 first. At that time, she did not have the money and was told to contact him again when she did.

She was later contacted by both scammers, and again explained that she didn’t have the money. After both denied working together, she grew suspicious and ended contact.

How the scam works: You receive a new friend request along with a message, or a message from a current Facebook friend detailing information on free grant money from the government. The message might include other Facebook users who have successfully received “grant money” to look more credible. The message may also have a link to a law office or phony government website. The scammer could list a real U.S. Government website, address or phone number to appear legitimate. In the end, you will be asked for personal information and a payment for processing fees.

BBB urges any consumers who receive messages concerning government grants on Facebook to not respond, and block or unfriend the person right away. If the message came from a friend you know in real life, it is possible their account may have been hacked.

The United States Government will not contact you directly for loans, or require that you pay any sort of fee.

A Bitcoin Scam: Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system that uses its own currency to transact business. Bitcoins are not issued by banks or governments, but was designed as an alternative to national currencies.

A man from Groveport, Ohio reported finding a website titled cloud-m.biz advertising investment returns of 10% per day. He decided to invest and sent 0.030589 Bitcoins (worth $34.83 USD) to a username using Coinbase. The next day, $3.45 was sent to his Bitcoin account, making it seem like cloud-m.biz was a legitimate site for investment. After making another payment for investment, he went to login the next day and found that the site’s name had changed to bitfin.biz and he was no longer able to sign in. The website looked the same with the name change being the only difference. After his initial investments, he lost a total of $543.

Like with any investment, losing money is a possibility. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has issued an Investor Alert about Bitcoins, calling them “more than a bit risky” as an investment.

Before investing or shopping online, BBB recommends researching the company on bbb.org. Consumers should consider paying with a credit card, because charges can be disputed after a purchase if something were to go wrong.

For more information on finding businesses you can trust, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

Since 1912, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB serving Central Ohio was founded in 1921, and serving 21 counties in Ohio, is one of 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.