Fraudsters in South Africa are turning to syndicates that rent out corpses for use in insurance fraud, and police are implementing new tools to get those dead bodies off the market, authorities said.
The Independent reported that South African Insurance Crime Bureau chief executive Garth de Klerk has been contending with the corpse fraud industry for some time. Just last week, they received a second claim for a death that had happened last year.
“The person had died last year April and the claim was processed, and then we got a claim again for the same person. Renting a corpse is a problem as we have many cadavers moved from one morgue to another,” he said. Typically these corpse fraud syndicates will burn or otherwise disfigure the bodies in their care to such a degree that they can’t be identified, allowing them to be brought to multiple different medical examiners under different identities,The Independent reported.
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The ICB plans to introduce fingerprinting technology for corpses that will require them to be identified and recorded before a death certificate can be issued.
According to The Independent, The Association for Savings and Investments SA released a report that indicated the insurance industry discovered 3708 cases that would have resulted in $69,298,500 in fraudulent life insurance claims in 2018.
Donovan Herman of insurers Asisa told The Independent that the vast majority of those fraudulent claims take place around funeral homes. Most of those establishments do not require blood tests or medical examinations to ensure a quick payout.
According to the report, the South African insurance industry paid out 99.3 percent of claims made against fully underwritten individual life policies in 2018.
The institution of a fingerprinting program will ideally make it more difficult for these syndicates to use the same body multiple times to commit fraud. Two men were arrested in November for claiming bodies from government morgues using false identities, according to News24. The men would then allegedly bring those bodies to private mortuaries to claim insurance payouts.
Corpse borrowing isn’t a new crime by any means. In 2012, PRI reported that a pair of South Africans created a false identity of a woman named Aphiwe Ntombela and obtained three life insurance policies for her that totaled $11,000.
They then approached a funeral director in Durban and asked if they could borrow a female corpse. The director agreed, removing a 42-year-old dead woman from his custody and bringing her to a mortuary in another city so a doctor could prepare a death certificate.
Unfortunately for the would-be scammers, police were warned of their plans and were waiting to arrest the funeral director when he came to retrieve the body.