Second Customer: Well, my factory caught fire and burned to the ground. You?
First Customer: You see, my warehouse was leveled by a terrible earthquake.
Second Customer: Not bad, not bad. So... how do you start an earthquake?
Insurance is a method of sharing the risk of loss between a large number of people. When someone suffers a loss, they are reimbursed by their insurance, paid for from the premiums of all the insureds who didn't suffer a loss. While it may seem that the lossee has "hit the jackpot" in that they're the only one who have got more out of their insurance than they put in, the principle of indemnity dictates that they are reimbursed only the value of their loss. Ideally, insurance pays to get you exactly back where you started, no more, no less.
Of course, people looking for a quick buck have tried all kinds of schemes to try and make a profit off insurance. A number of different techniques include:
- Falsifying a loss, such as faking a burglary, hiding the "stolen goods" and then claiming their value from insurance.
- Deliberately causing a loss, such as burning down an old building to claim the money needed to build a new one
- Exaggerating the scale of a loss, such as claiming the worthless old paintings lost in a fire were actually valuable artworks. In particular, claiming exaggerated injuries from an accident (which is known as a Staged Pedestrian Accident when it has also been deliberately caused) either to claim on the insurance or to sue the person allegedly responsible
- Waiting until you incur a loss before buying insurance, then claiming that the loss took place during the policy period
- Lying about details which would prevent you from filing a claim, eg. who was driving the car or where the loss took place.
- Outright murdering a relative with life insurance. Bonus point if they try to Make It Look Like an Accident.
- Killing yourself but making it look like an accident or murder to secure the money for your family (can be done by either the dead person themselves or as a coverup by the beneficiary). Or faking your death for the same purpose.
- Combinations of these, e.g. someone files a claim for workers' compensation, and (1) aren't injured (a complete scam) (2) are not injured enough to be unable to work, e.g. if you get a paper cut it means you get a bandage and maybe a tetanus shot, it does not mean you can't use your hand; (overclaiming) (3) if you were injured but you stay off work long after actually healing (malingering).
A common plot involves characters attempting to pull off an insurance fraud and either succeeding or having to deal with the consequences of being found out. Alternatively, the insurance company may be depicted as doing its best to prove a claim false, even going so far as to plant evidence, in order to void the policy.
- Used more than once in Detective Conan, almost always as a cause for someone's murder. i.e., a man took a large insurance policy benefiting him and his best friend, so his friend killed him and then hid the body and hired an actor as a Body Double to cash on the insurance itself and get away with it.
- In Gunslinger Girl Angelica is almost murdered for the insurance money by her parents.
- In an early chapter of Nijigahara Holograph, a store manager proposes to an employee that he use the meat slicer to mutilate his hands and pay off his debt to the store's owner with the resulting insurance money.
- Batman Black and White: In "Fortunes", Marie Margay made out a life insurance policy payable to her twin sister, then murdered her sister in a way that made it look like she herself had committed suicide, intending to impersonate her sister and claim the insurance money. In describing his conclusions, the detective Ashraf points out that she was apparently unaware that life insurance doesn't pay out on suicide, one of several reasons he sums the plan up as "poorly conceived".
- Superman :
- In one story, the staff of the Daily Planet have to deal with a rival publisher. Perry White spies the owner of said rival setting fire to his own paper-warehouse, realizes that it's a fire insurance scam, and prepares to print the story. However, a nearby Superman sees that the arsonist is just an actor posing as the owner; the real scheme was setting up Perry to commit criminal libel and be forced to legally close down his paper as witnesses could prove the real owner was elsewhere.
- In Superman: Secret Origin, Lex Luthor started his fortune by killing his parents to collect insurance money.
- A Mind Switch In Time has one ruined businessman who set fire to his failing garment business to collect the insurance. Unfortunately for him, Superman put the fire out.
"I set fire to my failing garment business, so I'd collect the insurance... but Superman came along and extinguished the blaze! It left me bankrupt!"
- In a comic book story based on Superman: The Animated Series, Luthor hires robbers to steal valuables that are reported as being accidentally destroyed during the attempted robberies so he'll collect the insurance money. Superman stops the scheme and Luthor has to save face by claiming the destroyed artifacts were copies made to deceive thieves.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: While trying to get to the dentist Etta ran into a woman directing two men to mug her and steal her jewelry at gunpoint in order for her to collect on the insurance on said jewelry. The three mobsters then threatened Etta at gunpoint for overhearing their plot, at which point Etta, who was in a hurry and was just going to leave them alone, beat them all unconscious and called the cops on them.
- Garfield: "On today's show, people who don't trust their pets".
Pet owner: I walked into the kitchen and found Fluffy at the table... reading my life insurance policy!
Garfield: Kinda obvious there, Fluffy.
- The Accountant: Two brothers with a family farm drowning in debt finally realize that the only way to save the farm is to kill the one brother's unfaithful wife for the insurance money.
- Airport features a subplot about a failed businessman who takes out a large flight-insurance policy and plans to blow up the plane with himself on it, so his wife can collect.
- The same thing happens in the parody Airplane II: The Sequel, but he bought car insurance by mistake.
- Jackie from What Keeps You Alive says this is why she murders all of her wives and then creates new identities to move onto the next one, but since she's The Sociopath, Jules tells her that she must do it because she's desperate to feel something. Jackie brushes it off.
- Could be implied in Back to the Future that Doc Brown burned down his mansion for the money he needed to build his DeLorean.
- Deep Rising: Business mogul Simon Canton wanted to sink the cruise liner he built to cater exclusively to the mega-rich because despite all the money he poured into the project, he was still operating at a net loss and only the insurance money could save him from going bankrupt. His plan involved faking a take-over by pirates, then escorting the passengers to the lifeboats and having the pirates blow up the ship with a torpedo. Then of all things a giant octopus monster shows up and spoils his plan by eating everyone.
- In Fatal Instinct, the protagonist's wife and lover conspire to kill the protagonist to collect his life insurance, under highly specific circumstances which which will invoke a triple indemnity clause (Namely, he has to be shot with a pistol, fall out of a north-bound train, and land in a river).
- Fletch deals with this in the "plan your own murder so your wife gets the benefits" variety. Of course, it's really to kill Fletch, who has been digging too close to the drugs on the beach story, that Stanwyck is involved in.
- The movie Double Indemnity is about a woman plotting to kill her husband to claim the life insurance.
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) also had this as a plot element. Both films were based on novels by James M. Cain.
- Another Jack Lemmon film, The Fortune Cookie, has a more comedic version of this. His character is a TV cameraman who's accidentally bowled over by a football player while covering a game, then gets persuaded by his Ambulance Chaser brother-in-law to exaggerate his injuries in order to collect a big insurance settlement.
- At the end of Free Willy, the bad guys decide to kill Willy for the insurance money. The good guys have other ideas and do what it says in the title.
- A guy in In the Mouth of Madness burns down his warehouse of fur coats, but it turns out just stashed them away, and gave one to his wife... and another to his mistress. Catching both those ladies in their coats gave the guy away.
- It's a Wonderful World: The plot is propelled by Willie Heywards wife and her lover who murder Willie's friend and frame Willie. His insurance covers him getting the chair—10 million dollars in 1939 dollars.
- In Mystery of the Wax Museum, Joe burns down Ivan's previous wax museum to get his hands on the fire insurance to clear away their debts.
- The '70s drama Save The Tiger stars Jack Lemmon as a garment-company executive who's heavily in debt and struggling with himself over whether to have his warehouse torched. He ultimately decides to go ahead with it.
- In Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear, the murders of the members of The Good Comrades turns out be a case of Faking the Dead. The members are collecting the insurance payments that are being paid to club, and then plan to disappear; leaving their dupe Bruce Alastair behind to take the fall for their 'murders'
- The comedy movie Short Time revolves around a cop who gets some medical test results mixed up and is told he has a terminal illness. Since he wants his family to have enough money (his greatest dream is that his son gets to go to Harvard), he looks over his policeman's insurance policy...and discovers it only covers "professional damage" (i.e. being killed in the line of duty). And he's only 3 days away from retirement. Hilarity Ensues.
- Small Time Crooks: One of Ray's friends sent two of his children to college with money from that kind of fraud and was planning another insurance fraud when he decided to set this plan aside to help Ray with a bank robbery.
- In Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, the plot is that a company received insurance for a fire in a weapons warehouse. Turned out they took the wares away first.
- Mentioned in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as something Mike saw in a movie once.
Mike: Guy signed his wife's insurance policy. Then he bumped her off.Wonka: Clever.
- Urban Legend: A guy insures his cigars, smokes them, then tries to claim the insurance money for "destruction in a fire".
- Usually the judge rules in the guy's favor, but in some versions the insurance company has him arrested for arson.
- Raising the question of why a judge would order an insurance company to pay out, knowing that policies explicitly don't cover the owner's intentional destruction of the property.
- This turns up in an Italian Uncle Scrooge story. Rockerduck insures a box of Havana cigars for a ridiculous sum against fire. However, Scrooge notes that the insurance deal directly says that if the fire is deliberate there will be no payout. He is still worried when Rockerduck stores the cigars in a place that is a horrible firetrap. Donald Duck points out that the cigars aren't insured against theft - not realising that this will, of course, make Scrooge force him to steal them. While trying to do so, Donald succeeds in starting a fire...
- Brad Paisley has The Cigar Song which also tells this story. The insurance pays the claim, but at the end there is an investigation which results in the smoker being thrown in jail for "24 separate counts of arson."
- There's a joke where some retired businessmen start talking about how their business was going belly up when a disaster destroyed it, allowing them to collect on insurance and retire. The first few name the disaster as something potentially man-made (fire, burst water main, etc). The last one names a natural disaster (earthquake, tornado, etc). Then the businessmen who went first ask the last guy how he arranged that.
- Another joke has a man getting fire insurance on his home. After he signs everything, the agent reminds him that he can't set fire to the place and try to claim insurance on that. The man mutters that he should've known there was a catch.
- Arthur Hailey's novel Airport features a subplot about a failed businessman who takes out a large flight-insurance policy and plans to blow up the plane with himself on it, so his wife can collect.
- In one of the All Creatures Great and Small books, the narrator tells about animals supposedly killed by lightning (the farmers tended to blame it in case of sudden death). There are usually few signs, unless there are scorch marks. Siegfried inspects one case, and tells the farmer it's a textbook case of the scorch marks... except for the candle-wax dripped. The farmer is too upset to argue.
- Clue: Book 1, chapter 2 ("Who Stole Miss Scarlet's Diamonds?") has Mrs. Peacock suggest that Miss Scarlet is attempting this by faking the theft of her own diamond necklace, since she had the insurance form in her weekend bag. It's ultimately subverted - Mrs. White stole them.
- In the Discworld novel The Colour of Magic, no sooner has the concept of inn-sewer-ants been introduced to Ankh-Morpork than the cynical locals hit upon insurance fraud via arson.
The real city had been burned down many times in its long history - out of revenge, or carelessness, or spite, or even just for the insurance.
- Partly because it's explained as being "like a bet that the Broken Drum won't get burned down"...
- And partly because the guy selling the insurance thought the Broken Drum was worth 200 solid gold coins (enough to buy half of the city, but the Funny Foreigner selling the insurance wasn't aware of that).
- Moving Pictures includes this gem:
- Encyclopedia Brown:
- The title character once witnessed a man attempting this by crashing his car and faking a back injury. However, Encyclopedia notices that the tires on the man's "brand new" car are worn out, indicating he sold them before doing the deed.
- In another chapter, a convention of police chiefs is being held in Idaville. Encyclopedia comes up with the idea of making up a crime for them to solve, which involves a store owner claiming his store was robbed of a valuable diamond necklace - the solution reveals it was a glass duplicate that was stolen, and his intention was to defraud his store and his business partner for the insurance money.
- A variant was committed by the captain of the Vociferous Carmichael in On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. He didn't cheat his insurance company directly; rather, he charged the owners of his ship's cargo a fat fee to be used to insure its safe delivery, but pocketed their money instead of buying the promised insurance.
- "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption", the Stephen King novella that became The Shawshank Redemption, has a rather more evil version of Red the narrator than the movie. In the novella, Red deliberately kills his wife by tampering with the brakes to her car, after he took out a large insurance policy on her.
- Sherlock Holmes once made an offhand comment that the most beautiful woman he ever met was hung for poisoning children for their insurance money.
- The James Bond novel The Spy Who Loved Me was about Bond preventing the owners of a small hotel from burning it down to collect the insurance. He also seduces a member of the hotel staff, hence the title. The Bond movie of the same name has a totally different plot and shares only the name and a villain with metal teeth - at the author's request, as he hated the way the book came out.
- The Turning Tide features a businessman who passes data about convoys to the enemy, and then makes sure his own ships on the convoys are not carrying nearly as many goods as they are supposed to.
- In one of P. G. Wodehouse's Ukridge stories ("Ukridge's Accident Syndicate"), Ukridge and a group of his friends take out multiple insurance policies on one person, who is then supposed to contrive a suitable "accident" and share the payout. The designated victim gets cold feet, but immediately after declaring his intent not to go through with the plan, he has a real accident — and gets amnesia, meaning that he has no memory of agreeing to split the insurance money with the syndicate.
- In Zodiac, eco-activist Hank Boone is legendary for sinking whaling ships. In reality, he only ever sunk one in person — all the rest were sunk by their owners to collect on the insurance and blamed on him.
- The Adventures of Shirley Holmes: Ned Crawford is arrested for insurance fraud when a ruby he reported as stolen is found at his home. It turns out the ruby was planted there by a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to stop him from exploiting child labor.
- Shows up in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where a husband and wife fake the wife's sudden disappearance and have her declared dead after seven years to collect the insurance money. Reality Ensues when the insurance company hires a private eye to investigate the husband on suspicion for foul play, but of course he finds nothing. Unfortunately, just before the deadline and the payout, the wife returns, confessing to have found new love and offering up a substantially lower sum if he'll attest she merely left him. Incensed, the husband kills the wife, burying her in the front garden. The investigator comes along the next day to announce he's calling it quits and congratulate the husband and, in an effort to show bygones are bygones, proceeds to help the horrified husband with planting his roses. The episode ends with the audience left to assume the investigator then found the body.
- Ant and Dec, in a Bill & Ben, The Flowerpot Men pastiche on SM:TVLive, attempt to commit insurance fraud, but it is rumbled.
- One Are You Being Served? episode has Grace Brothers under threat of hostile takeover. When the staff meet to discuss possible responses, the first one on Young Mr. Grace's list is "Burn the building down and rebuild elsewhere with the insurance money". Captain Peacock protests this, to which Young Mr. Grace notes in confusion, "Well, it worked in 1918..."
- The 1970s detective series Banacek (George Peppard) dealt exclusively with insurance fraud.
- Barney Miller
- In one episode a serial arsonist is on the loose. Mr. Kotterman, owner of a liquor store which gets repeatedly robbed, decides to use this as an opportunity to torch his store for the insurance. Unfortunately for him, just as he arrives at the 12th Precinct (to use as his alibi when the fire occurs) he discovers that the arsonist has been caught; so he quickly exits the place in order to stop the fire.
- In another episode a furrier has one of his trucks hijacked, fills out an insurance report, and looks singularly unenthused when the merchandise is recovered. The thief scoffs at his estimate when caught, calling the furs "worthless".
- A third episode features a bus crash following a robbery attempt. Of the three witnesses, two refuse to testify while the third, who was injured in the crash, claims to have not seen anything. When further pressed, the "injured" man is discovered to have gotten on the bus after it crashed to claim the insurance money.
- Subverted in The Big Bang Theory when everybody assumes Stuart burned down the comic book store for the insurance money, even though he is devastated by the loss.
- One house fire on Chicago Fire was discovered to have been set by the homeowner for this. Unfortunately, his estranged wife was still inside and burned to death.
- Several episodes of CSI have this sort of thing as the ultimate motivation for deaths the team investigate. It's almost always played for tragedy, since the CSIs uncovering the true nature of the situations almost always means that someone made the ultimate sacrifice for nothing.
- In one episode a man suffering financial difficulties fakes his suicide to look like a hunting accident so that his wife will still receive his life insurance.
- Another episode had an old woman crash her car in an attempt to have her son get the insurance money as well as get payback on the HMO that denied her money to have her cancer treated (she had tried to crash the car into her offices but she punched in the wrong address on her GPS and crashed into a restaurant instead).
- Another man lost his mentally handicapped ward's savings in a casino and tried to fake getting stabbed in the back.
- The fourth-season episode "Suckers," for a change, features an insurance fraud scam which does not involve a suicide, or any dead bodies at all: a casino hosts a (completely fraudulent) exhibit of Japanese artifacts as a cover for an equally staged robbery. It would probably have gone off flawlessly if the casino's owner hadn't had the actors he hired to put on the faux "exhibit" leave behind a bunch of paper money bands as "proof" that they'd stolen ten million dollars in cash. Notably, the casino owner seems ready to skirt on any criminal charges as the CSIs can't prove anything...only for Grissom to say he's given his findings to the insurance company who don't need full evidence so "I wouldn't be waiting for a check."
- Another one, a middle aged couple faked a murder. They pretend that one of them was annoyed by the electrician working next door and have him 'murdered' by messing with the electrical fuses and get him electrocuted. Turns out, the real target is their own nephew who was in the area when it happened just so that they could claim his life insurance. The electrician is just a coverup for them for committing murder so that they look like murdering him instead of their nephew and that his death just appear to be an unintended collateral damage. The investigators were suspicious at the start that they were apparently too honest for murderers.
- An episode of CSI: Miami involves a company killing its employees and collecting on the "standard life insurance" policies they have for each employee. Strangely enough, the policy in question even applies to suicides (including faked ones). In the end, the Corrupt Corporate Executive seems to get away with it by leaving no trail from the underling who actually did the murders, only to be killed by the brother of one of his victims. One would think that Horatio might possibly drag his feet in looking for the jerk's killer.
- CSI: NY:
- A second season episode turned out to involve a less-than-competent plastic surgeon and his partner staging a random attack in the middle of a crowd at Grand Central Station in order to collect the $10 million his hands were insured for. The attack turned fatal when the partner was jostled and the lye being poured on his hand splashed into his face.
- Another episode had a man and wife try to fake his death in order to collect the life insurance, but she turned on him and tried to kill him off for real.
- A later episode had a couple of women taking in homeless men and then taking out life insurance policies on them, claiming to be their fiancees. Once the policies had been in effect long enough to collect the full amount, they'd kill the unsuspecting victims.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "For Whom the Bell Tolls," the murder of the Victim of the Week turns out to be tied to a warehouse that was burnt down for the insurance.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The End of the World," Cassandra intends to destroy the space station so she can claim everyone's insurance money.
- Dragnet used it. In one episode, a woman's house was burglarized by a small time petty thief. She seized on that to say her jade collection had been stolen, but she'd really sold the jade and was hoping to collect the insurance money.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: One of Boss Hogg's favorite money-making schemes, he is nearly swindled himself by a pair of professional con artists who stage a fatal accident — and Coy Duke note is left to suffer the most when he is led to believe he was responsible.
- Ellery Queen: "The Adventure of the Judas Tree" ultimately turns out to be a case of insurance fraud, with two suspects making a suicide look like murder so they can still claim the insurance.
- In Home Improvement, Tim drops a large steel I-beam on Jill's car during an episode of Tool Time and checks his (very long) insurance policy; when he sees there's no "beam droppage" clause, he talks to his insurance dealer to add it. The dealer responds that he saw the show.
- Homicide: Life on the Street had the case of Black Widow Calpurnia Church, who had numerous husbands and other relations murdered after taking out life insurance. Her family were well aware of this, but they were convinced she had voodoo powers and could not be stopped.
- How to Make It in America has Rene trying this with the Rasta Monsta truck.
- On Leverage this is used fairly often as a means of taking down their opponents, due to Nate's role as a former insurance investigator. The team frequently causes their opponents to be arrested for insurance fraud or otherwise inconvenienced by it.
- In a first season episode Sterling, a current insurance investigator, benefited from avoiding payout on a several million dollar settlement when Nate and the team set up the villain for insurance fraud by selling him his own horse for several million dollars.
- In a fourth season episode, the team causes a corrupt cash for gold business to be arrested for insurance fraud after using a drill that the business owners bought as part of a decoy con to be used against them in a heist of their gold. Even better is the team don't even bother calling the cops; instead the marks themselves do it and when they report their gold stolen from a useless vault with a drill they bought, the officer literally laughs "that's the worst insurance fraud story I've heard" as he arrests them.
- One episode is a "Rashomon"-Style retelling of a theft all but Nate claim to have committed. The last story is that of Nate (still working for the insurance company then), who figures out that the item in question is a fake and tells the owner that there won't be a payout waiting for him.
- Married... with Children: Al believes the Dodge was stolen, so he claims, among other things, that he had the Mona Lisa and a Stradivarius violin in the car. While Peggy is on the phone with the adjustor, she admits she has previously filed incorrect claims before, but it was with another insurer. Right when Al is about to collect, a cop shows up to inform the car has been found.
- Another episode revealed that Steve was insured for a million dollars, and Marcy didn't even try to hide that she planned to kill him to collect the money (as it's a gag nothing comes of it). When Peggy tries to get Al insured to pull the same scam, he is saved since his job as a shoe salesman makes the chances he will kill himself too high for him to be insured.
- As a gag from an Aborted Arc that ended with it being All Just a Dream, Jefferson tries to talk himself out of confronting a seemingly insane Bud by suggesting Marcy should go since she's the one with a million dollar insurance. She then asks him which million dollar insurance he's talking about and he decides to meet Bud to get out of answering her question.
- Motive: A collision between insurance fraud and Blackmail turns out to be the motive for murder in "The Dead Name".
- The episodes of Murder, She Wrote featuring Dennis Stanton usually start as a case of insurance fraud that then escalate to murder.
- The NCIS episode "Reasonable Doubt" had the wife and mistress of a sailor both suspected of a murder, but they can't charge either of them because no matter which one they arrest, there's enough ambiguity in the evidence to establish reasonable doubt that it could have been the other one. It turned out to have been a suicide, and the two women set up the ambiguous crime scene to make it look like a murder that neither of them could be successfully prosecuted for in order to collect on his life insurance (which wouldn't pay out in a suicide).
- Probe's "Untouched by Human Hands": Brian Kingsley tries to fake his death and leaves his life insurance with his mistress so that he can leave his wife for a younger woman and two million dollars.
- This occurs several times in The Rockford Files, most notably in one episode where a man fakes his own death and splits the insurance money with his wife before they go their separate ways.
- The Wicked Stepmother in the Korean Drama Shining Inheritance tricks her stepdaughter into signing away her rights to her father's life insurance policy. She also hides the fact from everyone that her husband isn't dead.
- An episode of Tales from the Crypt involved an abusive man pressuring his wife and brother into helping him fake his death to collect his life insurance. Since his brother was a morgue worker, he could set up a fake crime scene, fake his death, collect the money, go to South America, get plastic surgery, etc. Naturally, this being Tales From the Crypt, it backfired horribly.
- In "The Sea Glass", an old case of arson turns out to have been a case of insurance fraud. This, in turn, is connected to the current murder.
- In "Blood Will Tell", the business partner of the Victim of the Week burns down their car dealership while attempting to make it look like an attack aimed at his late partner. Vera is suspicious when she checks his finances, and discovers that the only bill he has paid in the last three months is his insurance premiums.
- Whodunnit? (UK): The crime in "Diamonds Are Almost Forever" turns out to be insurance fraud with the thieves stealing their own diamonds in order to keep the stones and claim the insurance.
- A variant appears in The Wire, where the intent is not to collect insurance, but to allow a police officer to retire early with a bump in pension due to injury. Detective Mahon does this legitimately after getting hurt during an arrest. He suggests that his partner Polk do the same thing by deliberately falling down the stairs to their basement office. Polk nearly goes through with it, but ultimately he takes medical leave to go into alcoholism rehab instead. Meanwhile, Mahon talks about committing a little follow-up fraud of his own, by continuing to earn income but not reporting it so that it's not deducted from his pension.
- Living Colour's "Open Letter to a Landlord" is an attack on property owners who burn out their own buildings for insurance money, the lives of the tenants be damned.
- the Mountain Goats song "Insurance Fraud #2" is about a man accusing a woman (probably his wife) of faking her death in an attempt to commit insurance fraud, but it's implied that she really has died and he's put together this conspiracy theory so he can stay in denial.
- The Radio Drama Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar followed the cases of insurance investigator Johnny Dollar. Naturally, insurance fraud was a common plot driver.
- The Curse of Monkey Island includes a sequence where the main character has to fake his own death (right down to passing out and being buried in a crypt), just so he could inconspicuously come back to life, collect his death certificate, and present it to his life insurance provider to cash in his policy. Amusingly enough, his insurance provider barely even bats an eye at the idea of him coming back from the dead to collect his insurance. He does at least decide to stop selling him life insurance.
- In EVE Online, ship insurance payouts was originally based on a static mineral cost for the ship. However, the player driven economy drove the market value of the ships below the insurance payouts. Players started committing massive in-game insurance fraud by creating a ship, getting insurance, then blowing the ship up as soon as possible for a hefty profit. Eventually, insurance payouts were patched to be tied to the market value of the ship to stop this nonsense.
- However, this is still in effect in events such as evictions in Wormhole space, when a destroyed starbase drops more ships than can feasibly be extracted from the system (or drops capital ships which can't fit through the wormholes).
- It is also somewhat indirectly in effect with the idea of Ship-Replacement Programs ('SRP'; ship insurance paid for by alliance leaders rather than the game) which many large alliances have. In some cases, alliances offer SRP of greater value than the ships being lost, which when combined with the game's default insurance mechanics means that a linemember pilot in a large enough alliance may be able to earn money simply by flying ships into battle and boldly dying for nothing.
- Worth noting, insurances comes for free with every ship. Players are allowed to buy more valuable plans to increase the resulting insurance payout, but this means that even "uninsured" ships still result in insurance payments on death. The only times in which insurance is not paid out at all are if the ship has no pilot pilot when it dies, or if the ship is destroyed by CONCORD. In a game otherwise taken so seriously that it releases monthly economic reports on its own player-run economy, there are some questions about how the Pend Insurance Company stays in business.
- Overwatch has supplementary material showing Junkrat and Roadhog got mixed up in one. A CEO found out they were trying to go legit and tricked them into thinking someone was holding his workers hostage. The Junkers arrived at the location and were attacked by omnics, leading to them destroying the site which got the police's attention. The omnics turned out to be mere security bots belonging to the CEO, who used the money from the building's insurance to pull his company out of the red... at the cost of his own life once Junkrat and Roadhog caught up to him for being set up.
- Pizza Tycoon: Possible to do by getting arrested and fined on purpose, and filing a claim. The companies tend to be corrupt as well, and may be "too busy" to handle your claim until it has been too long for it to be valid anymore.
- Insurance fraud is a side mission in the Saints Row games, wherein the player character throws himself into traffic to take ludicrous bumps that show off the physics engine and rack up cash.
- A couple side-missions in Sleeping Dogs involve you "stealing" the mission-giver's car and then driving it into the harbor so they can collect on auto insurance. The first one will even take the time to explain how why this is better than just selling the car. Interestingly, the value of the car decreases as it gets more dinged up, so to collect the most insurance, you need to drive safely and not mark the car at all before it's in the water.
- Not actually related to this trope, but Team Fortress 2 has an achievement called Insurance Fraud, in this game, the Spy class can disguise as an enemy, making all players in the enemy team look at you and think you're one of them, you can choose to disguise as all 9 classes including the Spy, and enemy Medics can even heal you, you get this achievement if you kill an enemy, while an enemy Medic was healing you.
- One of the last quests in the Goblin starting zone in World of Warcraft has the player burn down their house to collect the insurance money (the island's about to go sky-high anyway).
- In a Biter Comics strip, immediately proceeding a car accident a man tries to buy car insurance over his phone.
- Dwayne gets sent to jail for burning down GPF Software's offices for the insurance in an early arc of General Protection Fault. It turns out to be a set-up, carried out by by the same people responsible for someone disguising themselves as Fooker and shooting up a mall.
- Implied in Penny Arcade when Gabe and Tycho burn their video game lounge down. Then they regret it because the reviews said it was the next big thing.
- In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv), when the Kira Taskforce discovers how much money they could get for fire insurance they all agree they should burn the old HQ to the ground.
- Krillin from Dragon Ball Z Abridged had himself insured for a crapload of money, and named his brother (actually himself) as the beneficiary. In a technical sense, Krillin did die (not that government believe it when he's eventually busted), but it's still definitely fraud since Krillin doesn't have a brother.
- In Friendship is Witchcraft, this is Applejack's excuse to leave when she sees Twilight's fanfiction.
Applejack: Oh, hay. I gotta go on home and wreck something so I can file an insurance claim saying the storm did it. See ya!
- In My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series Prince Blueblood hired Pinkie Pie to start a fire in the palace during the Grand Galloping Gala to collect on his stake of the insurance on it (that his company sold in the first place) and blamed it on Applejack's completely separate grease fire. Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done about his fraud: the only one with the authority to punish him is Celestia, and she might have been in on it (she also had an insurance policy on the castle, and she hates the gala).
- In Red vs. Blue, Mad Doctor Emily Grey decides to exploit the unusual condition of Agent Washington (after his friends time traveled and him from getting shot in the neck, Wash constantly visited the hospital feeling said wound, even if it didn't happen) by, in her own words, "getting creative with his medical assessment". The insurance compensation was hefty, enough to pay for a new wing of her hospital and finance Wash's new business making cannons for funerals.
- American Dad!: When Roger and Stan have restaurants next to each other, Stan's ends up mysteriously exploding only for the fire to spread to Roger's restaurant and burn it down. Roger then admits that he got in over his head and figured that no one would suspect Stan of intentionally destroying his (wildly successful) restaurant.
- An episode of Batman: The Animated Series has a developer build a casino called "Joker's Wild," using the Joker's face, costume and color scheme all over the place. The developer claims that the Joker is a universal symbol of gaming, not just one madman's motif. Joker sees the press conference on TV and promptly breaks out of Arkham in order to get his revenge for what he sees as an insult. It turns out the Joker theme was put in midway through planning because the project was over-budget and the developer was in danger of bankruptcy. He actually wanted to provoke the Joker into destroying the place so he would get the insurance money. Guess what? Turns out that it's a bad idea to deliberately provoke a homicidal maniac, though the Joker does give him props for it while holding him at gunpoint, calling it "a scheme worthy of me."
- The New Batman Adventures episode, "Chemistry" has Bruce Wayne fall in love with Susan, a woman he met at the wedding of friend, and after dating her, he proposes and marries her. For their honeymoon, he takes her on a cruise that is also being attended by other wealthy business people and their spouses. In their stateroom, Bruce discovers that Susan is actually one of Poison Ivy's creations, as were the spouses of the other wealthy people on board, who used pheromones to make them fall in love. Ivy shows up and has her creations disembark and announces that once they're all safe, she'll sink ship so that the spouses can inherit everything, but Ivy will be in control of the money. Robin and Batgirl arrive in the nick of time, and once Bruce changes into Batman, he manages to stop Ivy's plan and saves the business people.
- The Batman Beyond episode "Inqueling" featured a Corrupt Corporate Executive who hired Inque to sabotage his own company so he could claim the insurance money. (And if that weren't enough, he double-crossed Inque and tried to kill her to avoid paying her.)
- Bob's Burgers: In "Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks", Bob lets Tina drive the family car, and in a moment of panic she dings the only other car in the parking lot. What's worse, that car belonged to Bob's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Jimmy Pesto, who plans to sue him for the hell of it. So Bob has no option but to lie to his insurance agent and say he was driving. The agent not only believes him, he invites him to cook at his home. Once there, however, the grill sets the house on fire. It turns out the insurance agent himself was committing insurance fraud, and blackmails Bob into getting involved in more schemes.
- Happened in Family Guy when the Drunken Clam was sold to a British guy and then mysteriously burned down. The arsonist even frames Peter for this act. Lois even meets the insurance agent after he paid off the policy.
Agent: The owner even bought a huge insurance policy the day before the fire.Lois: Doesn't that seem suspicious to you?Agent: Not really. In fact it seems to happen all the time. <brief pause. walks off>
Agent: This is a textbook example of insurance <checks dictionary> ... frowd?
- Played for laughs more later when the agent learns about the plot, apparently having never heard of the crime before.
- Played seriously when Mort is in financial trouble with his pharmacy. He, Peter and Quagmire burn down the pharmacy to collect a large settlement. They spend the rest of the plot feeling guilty and with Joe investigating the cause.
- In the Futurama episode "Godfellas", when the career-criminal-robot Bender gets sent into space and has a brief stint with life forming on his body, note brief, he meets an entity that may or may not be God shortly thereafter. In the conversation that follows, it explains using a "light touch" with creation in terms of "a safe-cracker, or a pickpocket".
Bender: ...Or a guy who burns down the bar for the insurance money!
Entity: Yes, if he makes it look like an electrical thing. If you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.
- King of the Hill: One episode features a man burning down his shop. His next scene features him being taken to court for insurance fraud.
- A later episode had a weird subversion. In said episode, Hank really did hurt his back while at work, but despite being advised by his workers, and even Mr. Strickland, his boss, to accept worker's comp., and take some time to recover, Hank refuses because he'll miss work. When he finally, hesitantly, accepts to accept workers comp, he's seen by two doctors, the first who suspects Hank is trying to pull off a scam, and another who actually tries to pull of a scam. Later when he goes to a yoga studio, out of sheer desperation, he gets better, he's photographed walking out, and charged with insurance fraud. When Hank brings in the yoga instructor to his hearing, the review panel tells Hank the instructor' antics are not helping him at all. Hank says that's exactly what he's trying to prove, that no sane, level headed person would willingly seek the help of someone like the instructor unless they were incredibly desperate. Hank wins the case, and he's allowed to stay on worker's comp. until he fully recovers, with his yoga sessions being fully covered. Hank compromises that he'll go back to work, while practicing yoga at the office.
- In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Go Away Ghost Ship", the villain (the owner of a shipping line) would dress as Redbeard the Pirate and raid his own ships, both to sell the stolen cargo and collect the insurance money.
- In the Sealab 2021 episode "The Policy", Sparks filed insurance policies on Stormy, Debbie, Marco and Quinn, then manipulated Murphy into sending them into a shipwreck to look for gold, blowing it up with the dynamite he planted earlier. He callously admitted the insurance fraud to Murphy and pulled out a Tesla coil, planning to electrocute Murphy and collect on the insurance policy Sparks filed on him. Murphy pulls a Taking You with Me and electrocutes Sparks as he dies. The policemen investigating seem unaware of the fraud as they believed the scene to be a Suicide Pact due to Murphy's credit card debt that kicked the episode off in the first place.
- In The Simpsons:
- After the house burns down in "Homer The Heretic," Homer tries to exaggerate the value of the loss:
Insurance agent: Any valuables in the house?
Homer: Well, the Picasso, my collection of classic cars...
Insurance agent: Sorry, this policy only covers actual losses, not made-up stuff.
Homer: [miffed] Well that's just great!
- In "The Joy of Sect," Reverend Lovejoy is seen spreading gasoline over the floor of his church after everyone converts to Movementarianism. "I never thought I'd have to do this again."
- In "Dumbbell Indemnity," Moe gets Homer to destroy his car and make it look like an accident so he can use the insurance money to fund his extravagant treatment of his new girlfriend. However, Homer is caught and jailed, so Moe decides to burn down the bar to fake his death after confessing to the fraud. He doesn't go ahead with this plan but ends up burning down his uninsured bar by accident.
- In another episode, Moe attempts this after Marge gets involved in a bar fight. Moe sets fire to the bar and Lenny points out that he needs to have insurance to get the money.
- One early episode had Krusty going bankrupt and faking his death to avoid his debt. Once Bart and Lisa discover his new life and talked him into coming back to being Krusty, he then faked the death of his fake identity commenting that it was insured for quite a lot of money.
- A milder example, in "Mr. Plow" Homer is talking to an insurance agent after crashing his car:
Insurance agent: Just one more question, this establishment, "Moe's" you were at, what type of place is it?
Homer's brain: Uh oh, you can't let him know you were drinking. But what else is open at that time of night?
Homer: It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography.
Homer's brain: Beautiful, I would never have thought of that!
- Homer once used his company health insurance to buy Dimoxinil, a drug not covered (because it's used solely for cosmetic reasons, to regrow hair), by saying it's for something more serious. When Mr. Burns finds out what Dimoxinil really is, he yells at Homer, and just when it looks like Homer might get fired and/or sued, Homer's assistant takes the blame.
- After the house burns down in "Homer The Heretic," Homer tries to exaggerate the value of the loss:
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Accidents Will Happen," Squidward complains that a flimsy shelf in the storage room fell and injured him, and he calls the Office of Work Safety (OWS) and files a complaint against Mr. Krabs. As Spongebob, Patrick, and the OWS agent investigates the circumstances of the accident, the agent forces Mr. Krabs to cater to Squidward's every whim, lest Squidward sue Krabs for everything he's got. When Mr. Krabs remembers the surveillance camera he "borrowed" from the airport, the video footage reveals that Squidward climbed onto the shelf to take a nap, the shelf collapsed under Squidward's weight, but he was unharmed. As punishment, Squidward has to cater to Mr. Krabs' every whim.
- Woody Woodpecker: In one short, Buzz Buzzard coerces Woody into signing a life insurance that will grant Buzz a sum of ten thousand dollars in case of Woody's accidental death.
- Back around the time of the second Punic War, the Roman government decided to basically insure ships carrying supplies to legions overseas. Two businessmen deliberately sank rotting ships filled with worthless cargoes, then exaggerated their losses. Upon attempting to use violence to escape a trial before the people, capital charges were substituted for the original fine and quite a number of people wound up exiled.
- In what might be an Urban Legend, a man used an unsolicited ad to obtain life insurance on his goldfish. He was absolutely truthful on the application (e.g. weight: 1/2 ounce). The policy was issued and when the goldfish died he submitted a claim. When it went to court, the judge ruled in his favor saying that the insurance company could have read the application and figured out it wasn't a person, but they issued the policy, so they have to pay.
- Belle Gunness, a serial killer who started out by burning down houses and killing people with life insurance policies - such as her husband and children. She was not very subtle, for example killing her first husband on the one day his two life insurance policies overlapped, but escaped legal attention despite the accusations of the man's relatives. Later she simply attracted suitors with money and murdered them.
- There is also at least one woman who poisoned a number of friends and relatives for insurance money (on policies they didn't know she'd taken out on them). She got caught when she reacted much more emotionally to a death she HADN'T caused and police finally became suspicious. Cases like this are the reason why you can't take out life insurance on an adult without documentation that they know about.
- Then there's the infamous case of the town of Vernon in - where else? - Florida, where there was a sudden and inexplicable surge in insurance claims arising from the loss of a limb, often by people who had taken out ridiculously large insurance policies whose premiums exceeded their income by some margin mere days earlier. The insurance companies figured out what was really going on quite quickly, but every attempt at bringing charges of insurance fraud failed because juries refused to believe anyone would actually hack off their own limbs for money. And who can blame them?
- Mary Anne Cotton: http://murderpedia.org/female.C/c/cotton-mary-ann.htm
- Two business owners decided to have their shop burned down to collect the insurance. All they got was a double Darwin Award.
- The Murder Trust, a gang of five men operating out of New York City in the 1930s. The Trust took out an insurance policy in 1932 on a woman named Betty Carlsen. When she froze to death (after having been fed a lot of drinks, stripped in her room, doused with cool water and left exposed to the elements the Trust cashed in its $800 life insurance policy on her. In 1933 they tried again, insuring one Michael Malloy for $1,400. Every night for a week they poured whisky down his throat certain he'd drink himself to death. He survived. They started serving him anti-freeze. He survived. They started feeding him sandwiches made of rotten sardines washed down with wood alcohol. They started grinding glass and metal into his food including the sardine cans. Nothing could finish him off. Then he disappeared for three weeks. The gang decided to run over a bum, identify him as Malloy and cash in. This victim also stubbornly refused to die. Malloy turned back up following a stay at a hospital that had neglected to register him as a patient. Their patience at an end, the gang got Malloy drunk one last time, took him home, attached a hose to his gas pipe and filled him full of gas. Initially ruled a suicide, police became suspicious and exhumed the body, resulting in murder charges for all involved.
- In a ripoff of Guy Ritchie's crime caper Snatch., a New York City jewel merchant hired thugs disguised as Hasidic Jews to do a phony heist so he can claim a $7 million policy to rescue his ailing business, but the whole thing came down when new surveillance footage revealed he and an employee emptied the jewels prior to the fake heist and then tried to destroy any evidence of their involvement. If that wasn't enough, the owner even tried bribing a judge.
- John Darwin gained notoriety for faking his own drowning. This was so he and his wife could collect the insurance claim and pay off their mortgage. He secretly lived with his wife Anne for five years while everybody in town, including his children, assumed he was dead. When the ruse was revealed, his children cut off contact with him and his wife and he ended up being convicted of fraud. Swindled has an in-depth analysis of Darwin's disappearance and its aftermath.
- A more depressing example of this combined with Only in Florida is the so-called "Florida shuffle", in which drug addicts with health insurance are sent to Florida for rehab — and find themselves caught up in the state's tangle of poorly regulated rehab centers and sober living houses, which leech off of their insurance to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars while doing next to nothing to actually treat their addiction. While it does happen in other states like California and Arizona, the scam is most commonly associated with Florida, with three-quarters of all the people in Florida's drug treatment centers coming from out of state. That's one macabre justification for Florida's reputation: con artists are flooding the state with people suffering from drug addiction and mental problems as part of an insurance scam.