News Releases

Mercury's Best Of The Worst

Mercury’s ‘Special Investigation Unit,’ created to protect and defend policy holders from insurance fraud, reveals company’s all-time craziest claims

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (July 26, 2012) – Think your job is tough?  Try investigating arsonists, dirty law enforcement and opportunistic public transit riders seeking an illegal payday.  That’s just another day at the office for the Mercury Insurance Special Investigation Unit (SIU). 

Mercury SIU was founded in 1978, making it one of the first insurance companies to create an investigative department to combat insurance fraud.  Staffed with seasoned investigators, the SIU uncovers thousands of false claims every year, saving Mercury policy holders millions of dollars.

“I’m continually amazed by some people’s brazen, foolish attempts to cheat the system,” said Dan Bales, Mercury’s national director of special investigations.  “It’s imperative we expose unsubstantiated claims, because Mercury maintains low rates for their policy holders, in large part, by preventing phony payouts.  Our SIU is the last line of defense.”

Below are three of Mercury’s most curious claims:

Claim #3:  Let It Burn

The insured owned a $160,000 motor home and was having trouble selling it.  Conveniently, it became the target of an arsonist – setting up the insured for a major payday.  

Think that sounds a bit too good to be true?  So did Mercury’s SIU, which immediately began to investigate. 

The arsonist, who turned out to be the insured’s next door neighbor, was severely burned during the crime and quickly arrested.  SIU investigators then obtained the name of a middleman, a 22-year friend of the insured, who hired the arsonist.  Prior to any interrogation, though, he died in a suspicious motorcycle accident following a night of drinking with, you guessed it, the insured. 

As SIU’s investigation continued, the arsonist was handed a 16-year prison sentence.  While serving time, his recorded prison phone calls implicated the insured as the architect of the crime and the ploy was exposed.  The insured received a hefty prison sentence and his claim was…denied. 

Claim #2:  Oscar-Worthy…Not So Much

The insured’s car lightly collided with a stationary public bus.  The much larger bus didn’t budge and no damage occurred to either vehicle, though one woman onboard claimed she suffered significant neck and back injuries.

The SIU went to work investigating this injury claim and uncovered video footage of what transpired. You be the judge: Link.

That flop puts soccer players to shame. No surprise, her suit was dismissed by the court.

Claim #1:  A Shot in the Dark

An LAPD gang detective reported his expensive BMW was stolen from a Los Angeles area strip mall. Police responded quickly, but became suspicious when the detective’s nephew arrived on scene seconds later to give him a ride home. 

Doubts deepened when the detective suffered a mysterious gunshot wound shortly after the theft. He alleged the shooting and theft were gang retaliation for his work fighting gang crime in the city, but the real story turned out to be quite different.

LAPD and Mercury’s SIU were able to prove the detective orchestrated everything, including the shooting, in an attempt to defraud Mercury out of thousands of dollars. The investigation revealed the detective was more than $1 million in debt and he faked the carjacking to collect on his insurance policy. He then shot himself trying to bolster his disintegrating story, but later pled guilty to all charges and was forced to pay restitution, serve time in the form of community service and was terminated by LAPD.  

“Insurance fraud is a major concern for all insurance companies,’ says Joanna Moore, Mercury’s chief claims officer.  “It should be a big concern for policyholders, too, because it can contribute up to 30 percent of the premium cost. Our SIU team assists with keeping those costs down and ultimately helps us provide our customers with lower rates.”


Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization offering predominantly personal automobile and homeowners insurance through a network of independent agents in California, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Since 1962, Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices – core values that distinguish Mercury in the marketplace.



For further information: Jeff Green, PCGCampbell, +1-424-903-3661,

A company you can trust

Forbes 2019 America's Best Mid-Size Employers's Top Five Best Auto Insurance Company 2020