With fraud a major topic on the agenda for the insurance industry, Anthony Gould talks to Allan Clare about the Insurance Fraud Investigators Group's effective intelligence gathering
Fraud is now firmly ensconced at the top of the insurance industry's wider agenda, driven by a range of factors - from the constant internal pressure to reduce claims costs, to external pressure from the Financial Services Authority for insurers to be seen to be doing something.
As the industry has struggled to get real data sharing initiatives off the ground, one body, the Insurance Fraud Investigators Group, has quietly been putting collaboration into practice with a simple but effective intelligence gathering initiative.
Allan Clare, counter-fraud controller at insurer NFU Mutual and committee member of the IFIG, says the body is keen to raise its profile, both among those working in the sector and the wider public.
He is also keen to emphasise the difference between the recently launched Insurance Fraud Bureau (PM, 29 September, p1) and the IFIG: "Both bodies have several shared members, and the two are complementary. The IFB will focus on organised fraud intelligence from data, with a strong motor insurance focus; whereas the IFIG is focused on intelligence gathering and sharing, covering all sectors and aspects of insurance."
So what exactly is the IFIG? "The group was officially born in 1999," says Mr Clare, "but had already been running for several years before that as a discussion group for insurance fraud investigators representing the major UK insurers. From the outset it became clear the investigators were dealing with the same people who were attempting to systematically defraud several insurers. We, therefore, developed a network and process for the sharing of intelligence for the purpose of fraud prevention and investigation."
In 1999, the body took on the IFIG tag and was affiliated to the Association of British Insurers' Crime and Anti-Fraud Bureau. However, in 2001 it split from the ABI to plough its own furrow, as a result of the trade body's decision to focus on strategic rather than operational activity. This period also saw the disbandment of the ABI's Claims Committee.
Mr Clare says the body has steadily grown in membership during the past few years and now covers a broad spread of the industry. With more than 100 corporate members, each paying a negligible £150 a year, participants range from insurers through to loss adjusters, investigators and lawyers. It also works closely with the police, the ABI and government agencies, with honorary members including the British Bankers' Association and several police forces.
The IFIG now has 126 members if all sub-groups - for example, Axa Insurance and Axa Life - are counted as one entity, or 148 on a strict individual company basis. Members have to sign up to its constitution, protocols and acceptable use policy for the information provided.
So how does the body operate? The IFIG receives intelligence information, and then evaluates this information in terms of reliability of the source, using the police's National Intelligence Model. It then disseminates this information to the members via a closed section of its website - www.ifig.org - on a daily basis. The body itself does not do any analysis of the information, leaving this up to the members.
Mr Clare explains that, in terms of volume of intelligence being generated, the IFIG has sent out more than 180 alerts to members since the website went live on 14 September last year. He reiterates that while the body does not have the resources to analyse the information itself, such as trend spotting, the majority of alerts have not, surprisingly, been about motor claims.
However, other classes of claim have also prompted alerts to be sent out: home (27 alerts), commercial and property (10) creditor (9), life (8) and highway liability. In fact, adds Mr Clare, the latter category is likely to accelerate during the coming months by virtue of an influx of local authorities joining the membership.
In terms of motor claims, Mr Clare says that most relate to so-called staged accidents or contrived claims, including some large fraud ring investigations.
As for other activity, the body holds an annual general meeting and four education and training seminars each year. These are held at members' premises and are addressed by a range of guest speakers, such as the Security Industry Authority, National Criminal Intelligence Service, and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency - with the ABI Anti-Fraud Committee always having a slot.
The current chairman of the IFIG is Peter Upton, group security adviser at Prudential, and the deputy chair is Matt Gilham, fraud prevention manager of Esure.
Mr Clare stresses that, after almost a decade of activity, this previously quiet body is now keen to make progress on its other objectives - that is, to raise the profile of insurance fraud and the fact it is a criminal act. The IFIG's website, for example, prominently displays the ABI's Cheatline to facilitate both telephone and online whistle-blowing by members of the public.
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