SEPTA today announced a campaign in collaboration with District Attorney Seth Williams to reduce the number of fraudulent injury claims filed against the system.

The campaign includes two public service announcements recorded by Williams warning individuals about the penalty of filing false claims and noting how surveillance cameras on SEPTA vehicles can be used to prosecute them.

SEPTA said the number of total payouts for injury claims has risen more than 10 percent to roughly $40 million over the past two years. The agency has referred more than 40 cases of alleged fraud to the D.A.'s office in the past year.

Officials said tough economic times likely play a role in the rise of bogus claims.

 

"People are struggling out there, looking to make ends meet," explained SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey, who noted the urban legend that being on a SEPTA vehicle involved in an accident was "akin to winning the lottery."

One-third of SEPTA's bus fleet is equipped with cameras, and SEPTA expects cameras to be installed on the remainder of the fleet by January 2013. There are also cameras on each car of the Broad Street Subway and the Market-Frankford El. On the Regional Rail line, less than one-third of cars are equipped with surveillance.

Insurance fraud is a third-degree felony and comes with probation and a small fine for first-time offenders, prosecutors said. In some instances, an offender could be sentenced to jail. At least nine people have been prosecuted so far, with each pleading guilty.

In one of the PSAs, surveillance footage shows a man running down a street and onto a SEPTA bus that has already been struck by a passing vehicle. The man then stretches out over several seats to feign injury.

The PSA's will air on local television.

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