Video: Oliver Little of IFED

  • Of the 22,500 crimes reported monthly to the Action Fraud national reporting service, 100 are insurance frauds 
  • Action Fraud and NFIB service relaunch set to go live in late summer
  • IFED are trialling restorative justice where more minor crash-for-cash offenders are shown video responses from victims of such incidents instead of more hefty penalties

It’s an era of big data and automated systems for insurers but in the fight against fraud, the human touch is helping catch scams and confront fraudsters

The Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department's recently appointed chief, detective chief inspector Oliver Little, says that while improving data sharing in the industry is essential, not everything will be caught by computer.

One scam quashed by the industry-funded IFED involved prospective clients calling insurers to inquire about a product, only to ask customer service operators to call them back later. The return phone numbers diverted the insurer through a high-payment phone line, netting fraudsters substantial returns.

"That wasn't spotted through any system. That was identified by the call handlers themselves saying 'I recognise this voice'. There's a huge opportunity presented by ever more complicated data systems to say what looks right and what looks wrong. But you always have to have that human element in there," said Little.

Little, who took over from detective chief inspector Angie Rogers in January, said there was also some reluctance from the industry on the trial of another technique, restorative justice, where more minor crash-for-cash offenders are shown video responses from victims of such incidents instead of more hefty penalties.

"The person who administers most of those is an experienced custody sargent who is used to cautioning people for a variety of crimes and he was very impressed in terms of the amount of remorse that people showed," he said.

"There was concern that we would be using restorative justice for people who were quite seriously involved in orchestrating crash-for-cash or crashing cars on the highway. That absolutely was never our intention, those people are the most harmful and those cases are where it's not just money at risk but sadly people's lives in some cases.

"The aim is to divert those people, who maybe haven't had the most significant role to play in the crime, away from criminality."

While Little said the results of the trial over the last 12 months would be "thoroughly reviewed," anecdotal evidence was positive and support from industry players like DLG's head of counter-fraud intelligence Mike Brown had helped the idea gain traction.

In his six years policing fraud, Little said the call for improved information sharing in the industry hadn't wavered.

"In all that time people have always spoken about more sharing being a good thing but I don't think it's done as much as it should be. There is an opportunity for more loss to be prevented across the market by people sharing their information more quickly," he said.

"If you've got a top-five list of things to do when you discover you've been attacked, working out who else is at risk and telling them has got to be in that top three to five."

He added, however, it was a two-way street: "The public sector aren't doing enough to share the information that they hold effectively and that's something that I want to try and look at ways of improving."

The relaunch of the Action Fraud and NFIB service, set to go live in late summer, would help the information-sharing process.

"Those relaunched services will make it easier for insurers to report; we don't want to put too much burden on insurers in giving us that really useful information," he said.

“The Action Fraud national reporting service for fraud offences takes in 22,500 crimes a month, on average there are about 100 insurance frauds in a month, which has got to be a sign that there’s underreporting going on.”

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