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Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame: 7 Outrageous Scams That Failed

Updated on November 28, 2011

Contrary to popular belief, faking your own death will not make your life easier. And as tasty as a big auto insurance payout sounds, torching your car won’t help either. Neither will blowing up your house. But to some criminals, these are wonderful ideas that require little or no planning. The result? Failure and embarrassment, and endless amusement for the rest of us.

John Darwin


In 2002, John Darwin and his wife Anne raked in £680,000 after he “disappeared” in a canoeing accident. The Darwins, crippled by their mortgage and mounting credit card debt, realized John was worth more dead than alive. After faking his death, John lived in a bed and breakfast for a while then moved into a tent on the beach. His wife picked him up once he became hypothermic and concealed him in a secret wardrobe in their home whenever family came over to grieve.

The couple used their riches to fund trips around the world, but their extravagant lifestyle came crashing down when John turned himself into the police, claiming to have no memory of the last 5 years. Anne played dumb until the authorities found a photo of her and John buying property in Panama. They both went to prison, and their two children still haven’t forgiven them. (Source: The Daily Mail)

Charles Ingram


This guy’s insurance fraud was minor compared to the rest of these—he didn’t tell his insurance company about previous claims and therefore lost £30,000 when he was actually burgled—but his history makes him extra special. You see, Charles Ingram is the guy who was found guilty of conning Britain’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire. While Ingram announced the choices out loud, his wife and their accomplice used coughs to signal the correct answer. This scam led to a £1,000,000 payout, which turned into a £400,000 debt once the cheating was noticed. (Source: The Guardian)

Tramesha Lashon Fox

Failing a class? Help your teacher commit insurance fraud! Tramesha Lashon Fox, a chemistry teacher at Aldine Senior High School, owed about $20,000 on her Chevy Malibu and faced repossession if the situation wasn’t dealt with, so she convinced two failing students to steal and torch her car in exchange for passing grades. That doesn’t sound like too bad of a plan, but the teacher foolishly bought a new car before reporting the theft. Suspicions were raised, and she was charged with insurance fraud and arson. The two students were charged with arson. (Source: CBS News)

Molly and Clayton Daniels


The toughest part about faking your death? The lack of a body. Not so in the case of Molly and Clayton Daniels, who, in an attempt to cash in his $110,000 life insurance policy, dug up a corpse, placed it in Clayton’s car and set the whole thing on fire. There were a few problems, though. For one, the body was that of an 81-year-old woman who DNA evidence (and probably visual evidence) proved was most definitely not Clayton. As well, there were no skid marks and fire was found to have started in the driver’s seat, not the engine or fuel tank. But the clincher? This whole debacle occurred just days before Clayton was to go to jail for failing to report to his probation officer. Because that’s not fishy. (Source: The LA Times)

Juan Jose Luna


In an attempt to collect insurance money, Juan Jose Luna set his newly remodeled home on fire. But the fire was a little too successful—the accelerant Luna used caused an explosion that blew out the walls and sent glass flying up to 90 feet. Following the fire, Luna was found wondering around with horrible hand injuries. He lost at least one finger, and probably his freedom. (Source: Insurance Journal)

Jacob Bancroft


Here’s a tip for wannabe fraudsters: Don’t advertise your extracurricular activities on Facebook. Bancroft, a 28-year-old from Hudson Falls, New York, claimed to have hurt his back while working as a press operator. He collected insurance benefits for well over a year before investigators came across a video of him skydiving, as well as evidence that he’d been hiking, firefighting, hot air ballooning and working in heavy construction. (Source: ABC News)

Graham Cardwell


In 1998, Graham Cardwell, an assistant dockmaster from north Lincolnshire, vanished after working the night shift. Some of his belongings were found near the docks, so search teams assumed he’d been swept out to sea. They assumed incorrectly. Someone (who has never been named) tipped off police with the truth: Cardwell had actually faked his own death, walked 200 miles to West Midlands and set up a new life with a new name. Why? Because he believed he had cancer and didn’t want to stress out his wife and two children. (Source: BBC News)

Have you ever faked your own death?

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    • CarliFrenneman profile image

      CarliFrenneman 6 years ago

      Great idea! I'll keep that in mind for next time.

    • profile image

      provobluetango 6 years ago

      Super Hub! You should write one about the most famous scams in history. It's truly a shame that the best scams (the ones that get away) are never really published.