Claim-farming is relatively new in Australia but it has already destroyed the lives of many unsuspecting people.
Manish Manju Tripathi was enjoying his weekend when his phone rang. It was not a known number and Manish usually avoids taking unknown calls; but on that unfortunate day he answered the call which left him worried for many weeks to come, if not longer.
“It was around 5 pm in the evening. I picked this call up. An unknown person with a fake Australian accent asked me if I had an accident. I could tell it was some Indian. I received such calls a few times and had told them that I was not involved in an accident. This repetition annoyed me a little and to teach them a lesson; I played along. I said, yes I had an accident,” Manish shares.
Manish was called by a claim farmer.
A senior advocate from Queensland Mr Dipak Patel explains, ‘Claim farming is a process when people receive calls from some unknown numbers to be enquired about whether that person has been involved in an accident and that the person has submitted a claim under the CTP scheme,”
The cold-caller or the ‘claim-farmer’ claims to be calling on some law firm’s behalf and offers to assist the person involved in an accident in preparing and submitting a claim on their behalf.
Senior associate with Mellor Olsson Lawyers of Adelaide, Ms Natash Budimski, says the claim farmer often entices possible claimants to submit claims by guaranteeing or advising the claimant of a set figure that they would be entitled to.
“Once a person has confirmed their details and agreed to submit a claim, the claim farmer provides their details to a third party, typically a lawyer or law firm, who then allegedly pays the claim farmer a set fee for providing the referral,” says Natasha.
This appears to be a simple telemarketing practice. However, Natasha says the effects can be dangerous.
‘Whilst this may sound like a simple referral based system to provide potential claimants with legal representation, it often has the unfortunate effect of opening innocent claimants up to fraudulent claims being made on their behalf, with no certainty or guarantee that they will obtain the settlement sum first promised to them in the initial cold call,’ she says.
Mr Patel says not every accident-victim is entitled to compensation under the CTP scheme.
‘It involves a complex process where the victim has to establish a documented injury and a genuine loss, such as financial or pain.’
Natasha warns the outcome for some victims of claim farming can be nothing more than a substantial legal bill, ‘particularly given that lawyers are accepting these types of claims sometimes seek to ‘recoup’ their initial purchase fee for the claim from the claimant’s settlement sum or the claimant directly.’
The story of Manish however took a different turn. One little ‘yes’ proved very costly to Mr Tripathi, who is a project manager with a tech firm in Brisbane. He started questioning the motives of the callers.
‘The moment he realised that I was grilling him, he started abusing me and disconnected the call. I felt humiliated. I called back, but the number was not reachable. However, within a few seconds, I received a call from another unknown number.
"This person had received a call from my number and was returning a call. This was weird as I had not called him,’ he recalls.
This was first of a few hundred calls Manish says he received over the next two days.
‘I received a call almost every two-three minutes. All of them had received a call or missed call from my number. I realised that my number had been trapped and was being used to harass others. This left me very worried. ’
Manish informed the local police and phone company.
All experts suggest one solution to the problem: do not share your details with a cold caller.