Block letters spelling fraud, with magnifying glass

The Toronto-based Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) has launched a campaign to educate Canadians on the consequences of health and benefits fraud, the industry group announced Wednesday.

The Fraud=Fraud campaign is meant to “help Canadians to recognize fraud, understand how to avoid becoming involved in fraudulent activities, and increase awareness that fraud is a crime and, therefore, has real consequences,” CLHIA says in a news release.

Benefits fraud happens when employees submit false or misleading information about the receipt of health or dental services covered by their employers’ medical plans. A CLHIA survey earlier this year found that 75% of Canadians believe the only punishment for benefits fraud is having to pay higher premiums, or be forced to reimburse claim payments — which is not true.

“Benefits fraud is far more widespread than it should be, in part because many people don’t understand that it is an actual crime,” Stephen Frank, CHLIA president and CEO, says in a statement. “Most people think that, if you are caught, you would just repay the money. In fact, you could not only lose your benefits, but also your job and, in some cases, end up with a criminal record and even go to jail.”

Though sometimes employees make mistakes and accidentally commit fraud, the rate of intentional deception is on the rise, CHLIA says.

“We are seeing more of these schemes which are resulting in companies having to lay off large numbers of staff, and that can have a huge negative impact. That is why we believe a campaign like this is timely and necessary,” Frank says.