The fight against fraud sometimes feels impossible, but we’ll never stop. Peter Hazlewood, Group Financial Crime Risk Director at Aviva shares why we'll continue to speak up and take a stand against fraud today and tomorrow.
Fraud is like water. It flows through the cracks, finding the point of weakness and the path of least resistance. If you tackle one type of fraud, another inevitably pops up to replace it.
Almost ten years ago, we began to see the rise of crash-for-cash scams in the UK, in which fraudsters deliberately crash into the vehicles of innocent motorists or submit false claims for accidents. Aviva led the call for an end to Britain’s compensation culture, leading to ground-breaking whiplash reforms.
Our colleagues in Aviva Canada are also considered to have led the way in the Canadian insurance market. Fighting for reform to reduce the levels of fraud, and to establish stricter consequences for those found guilty of committing it. It’s clear from Aviva’s research that Canadians overwhelmingly support strong action to fight insurance fraud and clearly correlate fraud with increased premiums. The same survey found that combating fraud is becoming more of a priority for Canadians, growing from 77% in 2017 to 87% in 2019.
But, the tactics deployed by fraudsters constantly evolve.
While the types of financial scams we’re seeing right now are generally the same as those before the pandemic, the fraudsters are exploiting the pandemic to take advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable. They are using coronavirus as a pretext to lure potential victims and they are also using the economic conditions created by the pandemic as a backdrop to fraudulent schemes.
The scams range from attempts to sell people unsuitable insurance to, at worst, stealing their entire retirement savings. The impact on victims is not just financial either, it has a detrimental effect on people’s mental wellbeing too.
The best chance we have of catching these criminals is through better information sharing. The industry needs to work together with the authorities to support each other, protecting the public and our customers.
It’s been encouraging to see the industry come together to fight fraud, particularly in preventing pension scams. Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion recently announced that seven pension bodies have teamed-up to reassure savers over COVID-19 concerns. This, alongside the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams, chaired by Baroness Altmann, can only be good news for the pension industry and those saving for retirement.
We launched our online fraud information and reporting service on our UK website at the height of the pandemic to help protect the public and our customers from scams.
The reporting service is already delivering results. We noticed a trend in reports of a new savings bond scam coming into the reporting service. Not only did we share this intelligence with the industry, we also used it to protect our customers too. We quickly published an article to our Fraud Hub on Aviva.co.uk warning customers, and the public, about this new scam.
We’ve recently launched the Aviva Fraud Report which investigates recent fraud trends as they relate to pensions, savings, investments and insurance.
- Our research has found 1 in 5 (22%) report having been targeted by suspicious emails, texts and phone calls which mentioned coronavirus.
- However, almost half (46%) of those who received a communication that they suspected to be a financial scam didn’t report it.
- With the most common (41%) reason being that they didn't know who to report it to.
We’re hoping to encourage more people to report suspicious emails, texts and phone calls so that we can better protect the public, and our customers, from scams - demonstrating our purpose, that we are with our customers today for a better tomorrow.
As lockdown measures are eased, it’s inevitable the fraudsters’ tactics will again develop beyond coronavirus. It’s difficult to say where they will move to next.
What is clear though - we are watching, and our tactics will evolve to meet the threat.