Life Insurance Fraud and Faking Your Own Death
When envisioning how your life will unfold within the next few years, there is one thing you likely will not plan for – faking your own death or “pseudocide”. While faking your own death may seem like an extreme measure to try to hide from problems, it is a mechanism that some use in order to gain a large windfall (e.g. insurance fraud) or to avoid having to pay off debts.
Successfully faking a death is an unlikely and extreme example of insurance fraud. The most common cases of pseudocide involve people trying to hide from debt, hide from committed crimes, or couples. Couples commit life insurance fraud when one partner will fake their own death while the other partner is alive and able to claim their life insurance policy.
In Canada, pseudocide is not illegal per se. There is no crime in the Criminal Code for faking your own death, although actions associated with the process, such as obtaining a false death certificate or fraud, are illegal.
One Canadian example of pseudocide took place in 2004 by Jeremy Daniel Oakley. He faked his own death in order to escape criminal charges of sexual assault and sexual interference. He did this by publishing an obituary in a Halifax newspaper stating he died in Toronto, resulting in his criminal charges being stayed. He eventually was arrested for his sexual offences in Nova Scotia.
This month, a book is set to be released entitled Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud. This book is written by Elizabeth Greenwood and documents her personal journey investigating the fake death “industry” and how easy it would be fake her own death and escape a $100,000.00 student loan. One highlight from this book involved the author purchasing a death certificate on the black market in the Philippines, stating she died in a car accident in Manila.
The book outlines just how far individuals may go in order to claim on life insurance policies, and interviews individuals who have tried. In one case, a couple used and cremated the body of a “local drunk” from the Philippines in order to get a death certificate immediately rather than wait for the payout from the insurance company years down the road. As per Elizabeth Greenwood, “you can go into any city morgue in almost any developing country, ask to see the unclaimed bodies, and cry…they’ll be happy to get a body off their hands.”
Another case in the United States involved a man faking a drowning in order to attempt to collect a policy worth $410,000.00. The perpetrator’s ex-wife eventually tracked him down through his e-mails. In another case, a man was caught for faking his own death when he repeatedly checked a website that was based on his disappearance.
While pseudocide is not common and is usually unsuccessful, it is a small and interesting branch of fraud.
Thank you for reading.