They are not criminals, or at least they don't meet the normal criminal profile. Their only relationship with the police is the occasional trip to the police station to renew their identity card, or to report a crime. Sometimes they have been the victims of a crime, but they disguise reality in order to obtain some benefit.
Temptation increases in times of crisis and so does fraud. In 2012, the National Police detained 251 people who were accused of faking a crime, which was nearly 100 more than the previous year (164).
Aware of this practice, investigators have intensified the controls to unmask imposters. “These offences pose a double problem”, says a senior officer in Malaga. “On one hand we are using resources to investigate crimes that don't exist or which have occurred differently, and on the other they alter the stastics and the reality of crime, which are what we use as a basis to organise policing services”.
The range of fraud is very wide. The police have detected fake rape reports to claim on travel insurance, false stabbings to hide expenditure on games machines and claims of muggings which were really thefts. One young woman even invented a robbery because she didn't like the photo on her identity card and wanted another one free of charge.
The majority of fraudulent claims are made for financial reasons, which could be to hide spending from their families - one woman claimed to have been kidnapped to avoid admitting to her husband that she had fallen for a scam - or to defraud the insurance company. The most typical case is to pretend that a simple theft - which is not generally covered under the policy - was a robbery with violence, to claim compensation. What these people do not realise is that making a false claim is a crime. The most common objects which are the subject of such claims are mobile telephones, electronic items and TV and sound equipment.
Just like the police, the insurance companies closely scrutinise every aspect of the claims and use experts and private detectives to discover imposters. This investment definitely pays off. “For every euro which the insurance companies spend on investigation, they avoid paying 46”, explains Javier Fernández, the Communications Director of Unespa.
In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, the insurance companies detected 131,000 attempts at fraud throughout the country, which was 10.5 per cent more than the previous year. “This has always happened, but in times of economic crisis the figure of the occasional fraudster appears, somebody who makes fake claims which are easily detected. For example, we have cases where they say their mobile phone has been stolen but when you ring the number, they answer”, adds Javier.
Malaga is the fifth province - after Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia – in terms of cases which are discovered, with 5,642, a figure which was similar to the previous year. However, this is much higher than earlier years. In 2008, for example, 3,190 cases were discovered.
Javier Fernández stresses that the amount of fraud is minimal compared with the 124 million insurance policies in Spain. “The vast majority of our clientele are honourable people. The problem is that companies set their prices according to claims statistics. We all end up paying for fraud”, he explains.