“Claimed and Shamed,” BBC Insurance Drama!

As Americans, we already have a tough time understanding British humor, often describing it as “dry”. This week, I had a hard time understanding why the British are enjoying a docu-drama about insurance fraud called “Claimed and Shamed”.

BBC's Claimed and Shamed
BBC’s Claimed and Shamed

Insurance Fraudsters BEWARE

“Claimed and Shamed” is a BBC program about those who commit insurance fraud (and get caught). Each episode covers a unique insurance scam, the follow-up investigation, and the ultimate punishment. The episode I watched was about a carpenter who submitted a claim for a broken ankle, but was subsequently caught on film carrying around massively heavy rolls of carpet. Doh!

Overall, I was impressed with the show. They managed to make the topic fairly interesting, and the insurance company reps were well spoken and friendly. However, this show is not much more than a great opportunity for insurers to ramble on and on about how terrible insurance fraud is and how much it costs them. Basically, a brilliant vehicle for insurer propaganda.

Union Flag
Union Flag

Naturally, in preparation for the show, insurers sorted through their vault of surveillance tapes and chose the most egregious and unbelievable fraud stories, for maximum shock value. The viewer watches and thinks to himself, “Oh my God, what people won’t do for money… I hope they go to prison for a long time.” But what the viewer doesn’t know is that these exact same insurance investigation techniques are also used to harass and intimidate perfectly honest, hard-working people who actually deserve their insurance benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate how costly insurance fraud can be, and yes, that cost is going to be passed on to us purchasers in the form of higher premiums (You didn’t think they would take it out of the CEO’s paychecks, did you?). So this truly is a topic that deserves some exposure. However, these shows are giving audiences a completely one-sided view of the situation. Let’s talk about what they aren’t telling you.

What About the Other Side of the Story? (And the Other Side of the Atlantic?)

Now, I can’t speak for the British, but in the U.S., insurers are rather ruthless about surveillance. My clients have told me tales about being followed for weeks – to the grocery store, to pick up their children at school, at their office… Insurers don’t deny it, either. During litigation, they are happy to tell you how they saw your client, “carrying groceries, picking up their toddler, playing catch with the dog in the front yard, sitting in their office chair for many hours at a time…” Oh yes, they DO take video through your open windows. Illegal? No. Creepy, unnerving, and harassing? Yes.

American Flags
Land of the Free

What’s worse is that insurers try to manipulate the video to their advantage, even when the insured offers a very sensible explanation. Insurers will claim that the person on video “clearly isn’t in pain,” as if someone suffering with an injury must always make faces and groan in pain, or they must be faking it. They ignore the fact that plenty of chronic pain sufferers take painkillers so they are able to go about their daily lives. The problem isn’t that insurers are pulling out all the stops to defend from fraud. The problem is that they go too far, in an attempt to keep the claim money for themselves.

So don’t be fooled. The show may be entertaining and informational, but there are always two sides to a story.

P.S. Not all British humor is lost on Americans. I LOVED the Johnny English films. And Monty Python, of course.

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