Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Beware of paralegals 

Lawyers always have had a reputation, mostly undeserved, for being con artists. But it appears from this list of the year's best scams and cons from Insurance Bureau of Canada that paralegals are the people to watch now:
1) A Halifax man made 11 claims in which he pretended to be struck by cars backing out of parking lots.
2) A man exported his new vehicle to Europe and claimed it was stolen three months later.
3) A Toronto-area man who took his car to a body shop for repair of a minor scrape was surprised to see the enormous bill and list of unnecessary parts - including a front grille and cooling system - the shop sent to his insurance company.
4) A Quebec man earned the title Chop Shop King for running two bustling garages where police found 40 stolen vehicles being carved up for parts. The king was jailed six years and ordered to pay a $774,000 fine.
5) An Alberta man reported his high-end pickup truck stolen, collecting $68,000 from his insurer. Months later, investigators learned he had stripped the vehicle and sold the parts. He was charged with public mischief and fraud.
6) A Toronto-area paralegal recruited people to file more than $200,000 in claims for phantom injuries from supposed car crashes. The scheme was supported by a clinic that claimed to have assessed and treated the injuries.
7) Salespeople at a few Toronto-area car dealerships charged $500 to arrange insurance with a broker they said would save car owners lots of money on premiums. The scammers put bogus information on the applications so that customers would be put into a cheaper rate group, but that made the policies invalid.
8) A woman in the Toronto area persuaded friends and family to join her in staging car accidents and filing false claims. One annoyed neighbour was pestered once too often and secretly recorded her pitch.
9) The owner of a company that had several workers filing injury claims denied knowing any of them. It turned out that a paralegal had forged employment forms to boost the compensation claims of staged "victims."
10) A car crash victim seeking cheap legal advice from a paralegal was duped into signing a pile of legal forms that had the paralegal negotiate on the man's behalf with the insurance company. The paralegal then forged the man's signature on the resulting cheque and cashed it.

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