The statewide study, conducted earlier this year by Franklin and Marshall College’s Center for Opinion Research, was designed as a follow-up to two previous studies: a 2008 benchmark study used to guide the development of the campaign, and a second study conducted in late 2010.

The new study, which surveyed 1,000 Pennsylvania adults, found that the number of consumers who “strongly agree” that insurance fraud is classified with the most serious types of crime has increased by 58 percent since the initial baseline study. The study also found that the number of consumers reporting an accurate understanding of how insurance fraud is classified (a felony) and defined (a lie told to unlawfully gain benefits from an insurance company) has increased by 41 percent. Consumer belief that offenders will get caught has increased by 160 percent.

Pennsylvania’s campaign aims to reduce instances of “opportunistic” insurance fraud – situations where people are presented with opportunities to make a good or bad decision. Part of the research process involved presenting interviewees with typical scenarios for potential fraud and asking them their opinions of whether such behavior is wrong, whether jail time should be imposed for the crime, and how likely it is that a person doing it would be caught.

“The initial research we conducted for this campaign told us that most Pennsylvania insurance consumers did not know exactly what insurance fraud was,” said Ralph Burnham, Executive Director of the IFPA. “We wanted more consumers to understand that lying to their insurance company is a felony for which they can be investigated, charged, and punished. The results of our latest research show that our campaign’s focus on consumer education is the right approach.”

Also, reporting of insurance fraud by consumers is up, another indicator of wider awareness of the issue and the belief that action will be taken, noted Ralph Burnham. Pennsylvanians who responded in the survey as “very likely” to report someone who was committing fraud has risen 22 percent since the initial study.

“We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made,” said Burnham. “For the average person, insurance fraud is not a top-of-mind issue. But over time, we are measurably increasing the understanding of and solidifying attitudes firmly against insurance fraud.”

“In all of the research we have conducted on insurance fraud in Pennsylvania, we have seen a clear connection between the knowledge about insurance fraud and the likelihood of committing fraud behaviors,” said Berwood Yost, Director of the Center for Opinion Research. “The more knowledgeable a person, the less likely they are to commit insurance fraud, and this latest study shows consumer knowledge continues to rise.”

The educational approach portrays specific types of fraud and real-life situations where an unwary or unwise consumer could make a bad choice. The statewide campaign includes broadcast and online advertising, public relations, community outreach and a website, www.helpstopfraud.org. The site offers brief, consumer-friendly information about the most common types of opportunistic insurance fraud, as well as downloadable information for the news media and in-depth resources. Visitors to the site can also view and listen to the advertising campaign as new components are launched.

Leading the media campaign are 30-second television spots depicting real-life scenarios of people who are contemplating or involved in committing insurance fraud. The spots close by pointing out that what these people are doing is insurance fraud and that Pennsylvania is cracking down on those who commit it. Spots warn the viewer, “Know the risks. Know the penalties.”

The IFPA was created in 1994 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Act 166, the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, created the funding mechanism to arm law enforcement and prosecutors with the resources necessary to fight insurance fraud in the Commonwealth. Funds are collected by assessing insurance companies that write policies in the state. No taxpayer dollars are used.

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Report Insurance Fraud!

This website provides a listing of law enforcement agencies that fight fraud. To report anonymously, consumers can call the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s tip line at 1-800-TEL-NICB or the IFPA’s tip line at 1-888-565-IFPA.