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Investigating Insurance Fraud in New York: How to Catch a Liar


the-maze-2-1008265-m.jpgFiguring out whether someone is lying or telling the truth isn’t easy, as we’ve previously written.

Investigating Insurance Fraud isn’t easy, either. Just ask anyone who works in SIU, and they’ll tell you about the legwork involved: the interviews to take; the documents to get and go over; the data to analyze. And it all comes down to one thing: Is the person who’s making the claim, telling the truth or lying? That, as we’ve previously written, probably is the hardest question for the fraud investigator to answer.

If the insured is lying about something important, something material and relevant to the investigation of the claim, chances are here in New York he won’t recover anything. If the insured claims he had a lot of expensive, scheduled, jewelry stolen, but it wasn’t, chances are he’s not going to recover anything under his policy. If the insured claims that, when his house burned down, he had a lot of costly new electronics and clothes destroyed, and he’s telling the truth, he’ll get what he’s entitled to under his homeowner’s policy. If he’s lying, though, chances are he won’t get a dime, even for the house.

It’s not always easy, though, to know when somebody’s lying. We’ve all heard the classic telltale signs: A person is lying when he blinks rapidly; looks away; looks up and to the side; has dry mouth. The only problem is, so has the liar. Ask yourself: is someone who is basically trying to steal money, and has to lie to get away with it, going to advertise that he’s lying?

Maybe that’s the reason it’s so hard to tell if someone is lying or telling the truth. We think we know what we’re looking for and either we find it or we don’t; end of story. We over-think the situation and follow the checklist. Maybe it would be a whole lot better to follow your gut instincts, instead. At least that’s what new research says.

The research is entitled “The Unconscious Mind Can Detect a Liar — Even When the Conscious Mind Fails.” It was authored by psychological scientist Leanne ten Brinke, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She was assisted by UC Berkeley colleague Dayna Stimson and Berkeley-Haas Asst. Prof. Dana Carney. Published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the title says it all, but it still makes for an interesting read.

Most people aren’t very accurate lie detectors, at least according to the researchers,. On traditional lie detector tests people don’t do much better than guessing, getting it right only about 54% of the time. The thing that bothered the researchers, though, was that this didn’t go along well with another widely accepted fact: people are generally sensitive to how those around them think, feel, and act.

The researchers tried to determine whether people might be able to subconsciously figure out whether someone is lying even if they couldn’t when they thought about it. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the answer is yes.

The researchers used a straightforward test: They had a group of 72 people watch video interviews of individuals who were “accused” of taking a $100 bill off a shelf. Some of the “suspects” actually had taken the money; others had not. When the 72 people were questioned afterwards, only 43% were able to accurately tell which of the “suspects” were lying, and only 48% were able to tell which were telling the truth; lousy scores, one and all. It turns out, however, that people’s immediate reactions were much more accurate.

After viewing the video interviews with the “suspects,” the group of 72 participants were much more likely to subconsciously associate words that indicated deception, with the “suspects” that were actually lying; and words that indicated honesty, with the “suspects” that were actually telling the truth. The researchers even confirmed these findings in a second experiment. In other words, people’s initial reaction to who was lying and who was not, was more accurate than their reasoned opinion.

What makes the research important, is that it shows how dangerous it can be to overanalyze a situation. You might know what the right answer is, but, as everyone sometimes does, you can think about it too much. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of the right answer. Maybe it would better to occasionally go with your instinct, which, after all, is based on years of experience. It’s just a thought.

Go raibh maith agat.

Ray Grasing

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