A puzzling discrepancy over an insurance settlement worth tens of thousands of dollars alerted Tangiers International to a concerted attempt at insurance fraud.
The tale began last year when “Isaad” – an Afghan national working as a security guard for a civilian military contractor in Kandahar – was severely injured in a workplace accident
While performing his routine duties, a large piece of scaffolding fell onto his leg – causing debilitating injuries and leaving him unable to work.
Tangiers International was instructed to handle the man’s treatment, seeking the maximum medical improvement so that he could return to work in another capacity and support his family.
However, a little over a year after the attack, disaster struck again.
Isaad was travelling from his home province to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul for crucial medical treatment when the car he was in was involved in a serious accident.
Unfortunately, he did not survive.
A relatively routine medical case had become one involving a death. That meant negotiating and agreeing a settlement amount with the deceased’s wife.
However, things were not to run smoothly.
Some months later, the client contacted Tangiers again to enquire whether Isaad’s widow had successfully received the agreed settlement. A Tangiers agent got in touch with the woman, but was surprised at her response.
According to her, she had not signed any documents and was unaware of any settlement having been paid. With tens of thousands of dollars already transferred to the supposed beneficiary, Tangiers knew time was of the essence.
A quirk in Afghan bureaucracy means women only require their first name and the names of their male relatives (father and grandfather, for instance) to open a bank account.
Tangiers discovered the name of the account holder who had received the money, written in English, matched that of the widow exactly. As did her father’s name.
The name of her grandfather, however, did not.
Another detail stood out – noticeable only to Pashto speakers – which raised yet more red flags for Tangiers’ agent.
The account holder’s name – written in its English form – was accurate, but in Pashto, the main language in Afghanistan, was spelt with a slight variation – the equivalent of spelling ‘Sarah’ with or without the ‘h’.
Tangiers case manager Bshar said: “We figured out that there was a person with the same first name who had signed the actual settlement agreement. It had obviously been arranged – the personal details were almost exactly the same as the genuine widow.”
Tangiers immediately called the client in the US and informed them the money had been paid into a fraudulent account.
Fortunately, Tangiers’ local connections in the region meant it was able to move quickly.
The agent knew the manager of the bank which the money had been paid into personally, and spoke with him to put an immediate freeze on the account of the suspected fraudster.
Understanding the severity of the situation, the bank manager ensured no funds would be released until the issue had been definitively cleared up.
His investigation confirmed what Tangiers had alleged – and the money was withdrawn from the account of the imposter.