Manitoba Public Insurance special investigators had quite a busy year last year, dealing with over 1,000 cases in the province.

Media coordinator, Brian Smiley, highlighted the top fraud case of the year, something that MPI has classified as "Phony Kidnapping."

"This is a very unusual one." Says Smiley. "The woman claimed that her vehicle had been stolen out of her garage." He continues. "She then opened a claim with Manitoba Public Insurance after the vehicle was found badly damaged. The woman claimed that the thieves messaged her via Facebook demanding payment for the returned car."

Brian says that the woman didn't inform the police but agreed to meet the thieves, which was very suspicious.

"At the end of the day, the woman eventually admitted to MPI investigators that she had made the whole thing up. In fact, she was in the vehicle and driving around with her friends, drinking and speeding, when they lost control of the vehicle smashing into a number of parked vehicles. Obviously, the claim was denied."

Moving onto the second biggest fraud claim of 2021, MPI classifies this one as "The Fast and Furious."

"This was a 20-year-old driver who told Manitoba Public Insurance that he'd been working a lot of overtime, fell asleep, drove off the road and crashed into a half dozen vehicles," explained Smiley. "However, his story is completely contrary to what the data from the recorder in the vehicle showed our investigators, as we saw that the vehicle was doing 140 kilometres in an hour in a 50-kilometre zone. Surveillance footage also showed that this particular vehicle was racing with another vehicle. This vehicle lost control, eventually crashing into a number of parked vehicles, and the claim again was denied."

The third case is identified as "Truckin' Along."

"This is an individual who was legitimately injured in a professional truck driving situation. However, while receiving benefits, the individual decided to go back to work. The corporation received some information. We followed up on it, and there was surveillance done on this individual, confirming that he was able to work and work long periods while collecting benefits," said Smiley. "That's certainly against our legislation, and the person was denied. He was also charged with fraud over $5,000."

The fourth-biggest fraud claim of last year was a staged accident between two vehicles known to MPI as "Center Stage."

Smiley outlines what exactly tipped them off about this case.

"Surveillance clearly showed that these vehicles have been travelling through the intersection multiple times. It showed that they were planning a collision. At the time of the collision, the data crash recorder showed that one vehicle was accelerating into the other one while the other one was literally almost at a standstill." He continues. "Again, both claims were denied, and both owners eventually admitted to Manitoba Public Insurance that they had planned this."

And finally, Smiley shares why the fifth instance of fraud on their top five list is referred to as "Canine Caper."

"A Winnipeg woman opened a claim stating that a dog had run into the roadway, causing her to swerve and collide. She eventually hit a pole and some items on a private residence. There was significant damage to the women's Ford Explorer." He continues. "Unfortunately, the homeowners were denied any coverage from MPI because we ruled this was not an at-fault collision. However, the homeowners then had some surveillance footage that they were able to provide us, clearly showing that there was no dog on the scene. The individual simply was speeding, driving way too quick and crashed into the yard."

Smiley further explains, the woman who made the claim was found to not even be driving the car at all, it was actually her boyfriend who did not have a valid driver's licence, and the claim was quickly denied.

In closing, Smiley notes that MPI's special investigators saved customers $14 million in claims last year. Which is something he says is huge as it's not fair for honest Manitobans to have to pay for the fraudulent actions of a few.

Smiley emphasized that anyone who knows of someone defrauding Manitoba Public Insurance, they should contact their tip line at 204-985-8477 or go on to the Manitoba Public Insurance website. All tips are anonymous.