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Insurance cheats running out of time

Insurance cheats running out of time
Insurance cheats stand a greater chance of being identified and
truth-tellers vindicated as a result of new research into detecting lies.
Dr Sharon Leal, a research fellow at the University of Portsmouth, is an
expert in detecting deception. She has recently embarked on a £112,000
study, funded by a leading insurance fraud investigation firm, to establish
'ground truth' about how liars behave when making claims.
Her research and experiments will come to an end in 2012 and are expected to
give insurance fraud investigators the first evidence-based techniques for
spotting liars to replace the gadgets and gut instincts they have
traditionally relied upon.
An investigation into a claim can be triggered for a range of reasons,
including a large claim on a new policy, or the investigator having a gut
feeling that something doesn't add up. A common trigger for an investigation
is when the claimant cannot recall specific details surrounding the
incident, such as what the other person was wearing or how many people were
in the vicinity at the time.
Dr Leal said: 'Insurance fraud has been on the rise since the recession
began and insurance companies are very keen to find a way of beating those
who cheat.
'There is a saying, "needs must when the devil rides", which basically means
when times are tough, people are more likely to break the rules. That is
certainly true in the case of insurance fraud.
'People think if they are telling the truth it will shine out, but it
doesn't. Insurance investigators waste time and money when they chase
innocent people. Under these circumstances some innocent people withdraw
their insurance claim because they can't cope with the stress of being
Insurance fraud investigators have always relied upon a range of tools and
instinct to identify liars, including recording telephone conversations and
then running them through a voice stress analysis machine to decide if the
person is telling the truth. They have also looked for signs such as nervous
fidgeting, not looking at the questioner directly, and blinking a lot.
But the gadgets and interviewers' instincts are wholly unreliable, according
to Dr Leal.
She said: 'Contrary to popular belief, motivated liars do not fidget, avert
their gaze or blink nervously. They are usually calm and have planned their
lies down to the last detail. Also, many people do not see anything wrong
with making a false claim and if they don't feel nervous or guilty, it
follows that the techniques that rely on these factors will ultimately fail.
'Even the majority of experts overestimate their ability to spot a lie. They
might as well toss a coin in the air - their record of finding the cheats
would be the same at about 50:50.'