Aaron Elvis is a world-renowned chemist. His latest paper explaining the chemical origins of life has received unprecedented acclaim in the scientific community. However, there is a small problem. Elvis manipulated some of his test results upon which the paper was based, and now one of his graduate students is about to expose Elvis as a fraud. Rather than suffer through this career-ending humiliation, Elvis plots to fake his own death while on an Alaskan fishing trip. Later that summer, Elvis “disappears”, and all that is found is a fishing boat floating adrift in the Prince William Sound along with a short suicide note describing his self-inflicted drowning. Elvis then slips off to parts unknown and is never heard from again. Has Elvis committed a crime?
What is Illegal About Faking Your Own Death?
While it is likely not a crime for Elvis to commit pseudocide (fake his own death), it would be difficult for him to eventually not run afoul of some law. Obviously, Elvis’s pseudocide would be unlawful if it were done to collect insurance proceeds, evade a debt (e.g. taxes or a mortgage) or escape criminal prosecution. Likewise, it would be unlawful for Elvis to process a new fake identity with a governmental agency. However, so long as he breaks no other law, Elvis is within his rights to vanish without a trace.
Do Insurance Companies Look Out for This?
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud states that “life insurance companies are on high alert for fake deaths” and that fake deaths happen often enough that insurance companies maintain investigative portfolios to “track down the scammers.” According to the CAIF, “the effort to screen out potential fraud begins soon after a person seeks a life insurance quote.”
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Individuals who fake their own death and later reappear can often be saddled with law enforcement’s search and rescue costs. Listverse provides an interesting look at the Top 10 cases of faked deaths and conspiracy theorists like to point out that the Lloyd’s of London life insurance policy on Elvis Presley was never cashed. Those planning a disappearance might consider Doug Richmond’s How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found which describes “planning a disappearance, arranging for new identification, finding work, establishing credit, pseudocide, and more.”