Fact of Fiction: Common Reasons for False Reports

The scene is common in police work; the story doesn’t add up, something is off – did the victim just say there were two attackers and then four? How did we go from a knife to a gun? False reports come with the territory, and attempting to determine whether a victim is being deceptive is part of the job. Like many things in this line of work, knowing is one thing but proving it is something entirely different.

The tactful approach that is required only adds to the difficulty. Victims deserve to be treated with respect and understanding, making it harder to be accusatory when deception is suspected. Officers and investigators must become very skilled at walking this fine line. To assist in getting to the truth of the matter, examine some of these common motives behind falsely reported crimes:

Insurance Fraud

When it comes to crimes involving the theft of property, many would argue that insurance fraud is a top contender for the most common reason for false larceny reports. Many bogus reports of burglaries fall into this category. However, with the influx of personal electronic devices over the past decade, allegations of robbery and larceny from one’s person are more often providing logical cover for bogus insurance claims.

Responding officers are wise to inquire about insurance coverage when electronic devices and big ticket items are allegedly stolen. Among the more common schemes today involve claims related to travel insurance, a popular feature promising reimbursement for thefts while traveling. Proper follow-up is necessary when tourists claim losses due to theft, particularly toward the end of their stay.


Included in this category are false reports related to child custody battles. Complainants will sometimes falsely accuse the other party of a crime as a method of seeking revenge, often inspired by prior criminal complaints. LEO’s see this in cases of domestic disputes or divorce, including false accusations designed to make the other party appear unfit or otherwise disqualify them from visitation or custody. Revenge as a motive is also seen in cases involving sex workers. The failure of a customer to compensate a sex worker can provide motive for false accusations of sexual assault and other crimes.

Explaining Loss of Property

Increasingly we are met with complainants who seek reports for property crimes that are used to veil a loss that was not the result of a crime. Examples include employees who lose sensitive or expensive items belonging to their company or employer. When faced with consequences ranging from lack of trustworthiness to disciplinary action or termination, some will attempt to cover themselves by alleging they are the victim of a crime. Examples also include a false allegation of crime as an excuse for unpaid debts, including overdue rent.

School Transfers

Some areas have a safety transfer option for public school children whereby students can change schools, even mid-year, in certain circumstances. Typically among these is a provision for victims of violent crime. This can lead to cases where school children or parents who desire such a transfer (often to a more desirable school) will falsely allege a crime. Armed with a police report documenting the incident, an application for a safety-based transfer is more likely to be approved.

Investigating this possibility is complicated, as the child’s desire to transfer may be the result of true bullying or other abuse. The parents may not even be aware of the underlying issue. The child may find it easier to allege a false or embellished incident rather than convey the reality of their torment. Fearful that their parents or school administrators minimize the actual claims, they may exaggerate – purporting crimes that involve weapons or numerous attackers. Though this motive is specific to select areas with such a program, it is worthy of consideration where appropriate.

Furnishing an Excuse for an Inappropriate Absence

False reports can be used to bolster an excuse for an unexplained absence or to cover up an infidelity. While this motive is seen in both adults and juveniles, we often find it more common among adolescents. In these cases we sometimes find that even the parents are wary of the child’s story. Separating the child and the parent can reveal the inconsistencies. Here we see examples such as teens who stay out past curfew or were at a location that their parent or guardian would likely frown upon. The stories become even more perplexing with adults. Here we see fictitious tales conjured to conceal unfaithfulness, or as an excuse to explain an absence from work.

Drug Abuse and Prescription Fraud

Continued demand for prescription drugs has only increased the frauds undertaken to illegally obtain them. Today’s prescription drug abuse climate has led abusers to seek all possible means of acquiring their drugs. Abusers will try to solicit a report for stolen property, including narcotics, with the goal of using the police report to validate the theft. Doctors and pharmacists are duped into replacing, refilling, or renewing narcotic prescriptions. Red flags go up when a complainant goes out of their way to remind you to detail their missing medication or prescription in the report.

False reports are a drain on police resources. The problem can be difficult to quantify, though countless investigative hours are certainly wasted to these frauds. While police officers are skilled at detecting deception, reviewing statements from victims while keeping in mind some of the more common motives for fabricating a crime may help lead us to the truth. This will help weed out more false reports and improve the overall quality of investigations, keeping true to the old saying – we are not just report takers, we are the police.


Please be a drug dealer, please be a drug dealer…

Your “Uncle” Joe came across a real winner the other day.  I hesitated to even post it at first, but then again this bloke he came across is the one driving around with a poor choice in license plates for all the world to see – so i’m hardly adding to his problem.  Plastered right there on the rear end of a Dodge minivan was the following:  BUYNBUST

Let’s pause for some background.  “Buy and bust” is an expression used to describe an operation where the police buy drugs from a dealer, then arrest said dealer.

Back to the problem.  I don’t know who the car belongs to, but what I can tell you is when I saw the photo of this gem I kept repeating to myself  “please be a drug dealer, please be a drug dealer…”  But as much as I want to believe this is some mope “crackin’ wise” with this clever little tag, this car undoubtedly belongs to a cop.  We all know it.

And before you ask why I presume it’s a “he” – only a male cop would have the right mix of arrogance and stupidity to go through with paying EXTRA for this carefully thought out vanity plate.  Add the extra registration fee to the price of the body work every time someone keys your car, I’m sorry – MINIVAN – and it makes for a pretty pricey customization.

So the takeaway:  You should generally use some degree of discretion in letting people know you are in law enforcement.  And when doing so, try not to antagonize the criminal element.  This is especially important when you (or your family) are in a minivan.

Say, um, honey-bunchkins? Can I ask you a question?  Why do people keep shooting at me and the kids while we’re driving to soccer practice?

Maybe I’m a bit traditional, but when I’m out and about and I return to my car I prefer to find all four wheels fully inflated.  It helps me move down the road more efficiently.  So here’s how to reduce the risk of getting your tires slashed: choose a license plate that says something like GODZLUV or KITTENZ.  Or better yet, try this crazy idea – opt for the random letters and numbers.   I’m not sure there are any published studies backing me up here, but I think you’re less likely to be stabbed to death while exiting your car with a license plate that says DZW3294 than our IMACOP friend with his BUYNBUST plate, for example.  Something to consider.

Hey, why are all the windows on my car rolled down.  And what’s with this broken glass everywhere?

Sidenote: Could you imagine if this bloke was allowed more than the seven or eight character limit? IMANARCODEETEEANDLUVBUSTINDRUGDEELERZSOJUSTRYNSTOPME.

Please poison yourself responsibly

Well girls, your “Uncle” Tom did it again. Every time he tries to brew beer at home he calls me with some questions. After answering them, I always tell him to let me know how it went. And every time he reports back that some sort of disaster rendered his 5 gallons of fermented goodness undrinkable – discouraging him for a few months until he again decides to try to create another batch of bathtub beer. And so the cycle repeats.

This time the thermometer cracked while taking the temperature of the brew. Spilled mercury right into the drink. He learned the hard way that not all thermometers are created equal. Turns out Uncle Tom used a thermometer designed for, well, HUMAN BEINGS rather than piping hot oatmeal stout. A thermometer that has no doubt seen its fair share of baby bottoms while being passed on from one generation of the Uncle Tom family to another. Well, heirloom gone, pale ale poisoned.

If it were up to me I would have pressed on. Look at it this way – is mercury any worse than alcohol? When was the last time you heard to someone getting smacked up on mercury and driving in the opposite direction on the Long Island Expressway?

Say Jerry, you heard about ol’ man Tuthill? Yup, at it again – had a couple of mercury tall boys and was shootin’ at Mrs. McGrath’s cat.

The takeaway: they sell beer in convenient bottles and cans. Already brewed, fermented, and in some cases even cold filtered for that genuine Rocky Mountain taste.

So girls, let’s raise a metaphoric beer (or in Daddy’s case an actual beer – in a bottle, from a store – “pre-assembled” if you will) to Uncle Tom – that 1920’s throwback, revenuer-dodging, basement brewing, rum running son-of-a-gun!

House arrest = No ballet class

No ballet class for you the other day Number One – it got cancelled.  Well, I accidentally took your mother’s car keys to work – quickly putting you 60 miles from any chance of doing as much of a jette battu as a 2 year old can do.

So here’s how the stupid went down: I grabbed your mother’s keys off the counter to try to clear the ice off her car the other day before work (note good deed).  In my rush to get to work, and my overwhelming 5am desire to fight crime, I jumped in my car before putting the keys back where they belong (or on the edge of the counter where your mother thinks they belong).  Anyway, I apologize for your house arrest.  Bright side?  It was only a one day detention – no ankle monitoring bracelet required.  With any luck you can get right back to your pirouettes piquee next week unencumbered by your father’s absent mindedness.

An error on top of a good deed = won’t hold it against me.  I hope.

Sorry girls!