Perhaps one of the most deadly of all, viatical fraud is shocking enough to be the subject of a Hollywood action movie. Because it's not been publicized, few people have any idea of what it is.

What is a viatical policy?

Think of it as a reverse home mortgage.

Let's say that Joe has a $500,000 life insurance policy. He is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given six months to live. If Joe wants to have a six month party, cruise around the world, or even seek alternative medical treatment in some far off country, he needs money. His life insurance policy is money.

Joe can sell his policy to a viatical company. They will give him a certain amount of cash, right now, and he will (in turn) make them the beneficiary. The amount of cash he is given depends upon how long he will live ... and the company can get their "return on investment."

The viatical marketplace got very big at the time that AIDS was killing so many people. Those who were dying of AIDS were selling their policies, enjoying the money, and then dying "on schedule." Business was booming.

But then extensive research gave way to many new drug cocktails, and AIDS patients were suddenly NOT dying. Companies (or individuals) who had purchased their life insurance policies as a financial investment were not getting their expected returns. Instead, they were out considerable sums of money, and had no relief in sight unless the owner of the life insurance policy dropped dead.

Where was the fraud? Murder. In too many cases, the alive and well victims were hastened to the grave via gunshot, car accident, fire or worse. Since they had not died "on schedule," they were helped along by a hired gun. Once dead, the viatical company could collect on the life insurance policy and the investors could get paid. Dirty business. Scary business.