I am currently taking a class on becoming a tax preparer, and in that class I drew some comparisons to the insurance world. Today I will specifically be talking about some of the common "details" that customers fib or flat out lie about on the application. Much like the insurance world, there are certain misinformed individuals that believe that omitting or flat out lying on their tax return is beneficial to them. Although the "benefit" is immediate, the consequence can be far more costly in the end if you are discovered. The insurance purchasing process is a data entry process and interview at the same time. You inquire on the customer's specific information, such as address, telephone number, name, birthdate, marital status, and so on and so forth. The application of an insurance policy includes language that expressly states that lying on the application is grounds for a denial of coverage, or even in some cases, prosecution in the court of law. Here are a few examples of what people lie about when purchasing auto insurance:
- Address/zip code: For those that know, for auto insurance, where you live has an effect on how much you pay for your premium. Ask anyone that has moved from Los Angeles County to Riverside County and they will tell you that the impact on the cost of insurance is significant (by the way, Riverside is cheaper than LA). Some people know that their rate is cheaper in certain zip codes, and they lie about where they live. This results in a decrease in premium, however, if you are caught doing this after a claim, you will most likely be denied coverage or in some cases prosecuted legally. Companies are now suffering through what is called a "hard market" - a cycle during which time coverage may be more costly, terms may be more restrictive, and policy conditions and requirements more stringent - so they are being more careful with business they write. Many companies are employeeing individuals that are tracking patterns in where there is a "discrepancy" in the zip code vs the area in which the policy was purchased.
- Not diclosing household members of driving age on the application: Essentially, insurance premiums are relative to the risk. So more risk, more premium. Many companies want to know the names, birthdates and sometimes the license number of ALL members of the household who are of driving age. The "trick" that is pulled with this one is an individual will buy a policy under their name, having a good driving record, and getting a really good rate, BUT not disclosing that there are actually other drivers driving the vehicle other than himself. Companies base their rates on what is on the application, by not disclosing all members of the household, the company is not giving you that rate that you should be paying. The best commercial that I have ever seen that illustrates how rates work is the Progressive commercial "Rate Suckers". This is why rates go up.
- Annual mileage: This is another rating factor in California, and I will admit that there is a lot of gray area with this one. A good example to compare: someone that is retired and drives to and from the store, the pharmacy or the park is going to be a lower risk than someone that has a commute of 100 miles a day to and from work. Unfortantely, this is something that many companies have a different policy on, so it is fairly inconsistent as far as the rules on how they are reported. However, if a company is expressly asking you to detail you annual mileage, do not underreport it, because again, you may be denied coverage.
- Marital status: The discount rate on this one varies from company to company. A married person represents a lower risk to insurance carriers, and that is why a discount exists. Some people put themselves as married on an application when they really aren't. If you are separated but not divorced, most companies will want you to list yourself as single. There are some individuals that actually go beyond that and flat out lie and invent names of people who do not exist and give them the same last name as theirs. There are a lot of companies that you can get away with this with, however, many companies that are privy to this "trick" are asking for proof of marriage, proof of residence or in some cases plain and simply proof of existence (anything with their name on it with the same address as yours). I have seen cases where a brother & sister put themselves as married to each other (because they have the same last name) just so that they can get that married discount. The insurance carrier discovered this during the claim, and needless to say the claim was denied and they were prosecuted for fraud.