Saskatoon·Video

From golf balls to hammer strikes: SGI on the lookout for hail damage fraud

Saskatchewan Government Insurance is circulating photo examples of fraudulent hail damage claims to auto body shops in Saskatoon in hopes of catching fraudsters taking advantage of the July 10 storm.

It's easy to spot, so pummelling your car with a golf ball probably won't get you a new paint job

Brad Classen has 18 years of experience repairing dents on vehicles, and says fraudulent hail claims are easy to spot. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Saskatchewan Government Insurance is circulating photo examples of fraudulent hail damage claims to auto body shops in Saskatoon in hopes of catching fraudsters taking advantage of the July 10 storm.

Hail storms bring with them thousands of claims to insurance providers, some of them fraudulent. 

"We are committed to investigate any suspicious claims. Our employees and partners are experts in the field and know what to look for," said SGI spokesperson Marie Schultz in an email statement.

SGI's definition of fraud includes inflating claims of damage actually sustained from storms. All submissions of fraudulent claims are considered illegal acts.

Easy to spot

Over 18 years as a dent technician, Brad Classen has only seen "half a dozen" fraudulent claims, which he reported immediately to SGI.

"If it's done with a golf ball you'll actually see the impression of the golf ball in the clear coat. All the round circles in a golf ball show up in the paint," said Classen.
The hail damage on this Ford Focus isn't obvious to the naked eye, but once lit up by the bright lights of the auto repair shop, dents are far easier to see. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

A hammer strike shows up the same way, but with scuff marks at the centre.

A hail strike shows up as a smooth dent.

"Some of the hail is jagged but it's ice. It doesn't have abrasives in it. It's not going to scratch the paint," said Classen.

"I've never, ever seen it scratch the paint in 18 years of doing this."

To repair dents created by hail, Classen accesses the car's body from the inside and pushes it out, using special tools.

He shines a bright light on the body to highlight dips in the structure and gently massages out the damage.

The difference between a hail dent and a hammer strike, or damage from a golf ball, is obvious, says Classen. To remind technicians how to spot fraudsters, SGI circulated pictures to auto repair shops. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

No free paint job

Since the auto repair industry has moved towards paintless dent repair, free paint jobs on fraudulent claims rarely happen.

"If they had an older car and the paint was scratched and they wanted it painted, they put in a fraudulent claim and they'd get their car painted," said Classen, who specializes in paintless dent repair.

"They're still possibly trying to get their car written off or they're under the understanding that they can get it painted when they can't."

SGI has received 20 auto claims from the most recent hail storm in Saskatoon, pertaining to hail and submerged vehicles, especially in the Confederation neighbourhood.

Over the past five years, SGI has received an average of 8,200 auto hail claims per year.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance is circulating photo examples of fraudulent hail damage claims to auto body shops in Saskatoon in hopes of catching fraudsters taking advantage of the July 10 storm. 1:19

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said in the past five years, SGI has received 8,200 auto claims. This has been changed to an average of 8,200 hail claims per year.
    Jul 14, 2017 10:54 AM CT

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