Insurance fraud hides in the shadows, unseen and undetected. It abhors “bright light” and public attention.
In contrast, fraud fighters from across the nation will gather in sunny Florida for two major conferences next week — the Coalition’s midyear membership meeting, and the annual meeting of the Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee. These are only two of the myriad meetings that, directly or indirectly, address the battle against insurance fraud.
There’s also a not-so-subtly hidden movement that inadvertently helps keep fraud thriving in the dark. Corporate profits are up as our nation continues working to put the Great Recession in our rear-view mirror. Many corporations continue their economic “slash and burn” for ever-higher profits. Training and education programs often are among the victims.
As I travel across the U.S. speaking at anti-fraud conferences, organizers and attendees often tell me about the increasing difficulty of securing approval to attend these programs. I recall one example from a few years ago. A major insurer that normally sent 10-20 persons to key anti-fraud conferences started sending only two. These “scouts” identified the best conference programs by vendors and attorneys the company used. The insurer then made not-so-subtle requests to have the same programs presented free of charge for the company’s claims and SIU staff.
While perhaps smart on an accounting ledger, such actions may be a damaging debit for longterm anti-fraud success. Fraud investigation requires teamwork, cooperation and trust. We have to know the latest trends and scams, and learn from the leaders forging through the fraud-fighting jungle. When we meet each other face-to-face, we also know someone we can contact to discuss case leads or other information that can move an investigation forward.
Abuses of travel budgets have occurred in the past, and perhaps too much time was spent around the bars at night with old friends. But trust and camaraderie only come from meeting each other and learning about our colleagues who share the battle with us.
Webinars are the current “training du jour” of choice. Well-done webinars should be a part of any corporate training regimen. Yet many of us probably will admit to multi-tasking during boring sessions, catching up on emails, or surfing for the latest deals on Amazon or eBay. These webinars hardly build strong friendships or lead to in-depth information sharing.
When I attend and present at insurance fraud seminars I’m always struck by the strong camaraderie. Especially at conferences that include public- and private-sector investigators, insurers and regulators. A great depth of information is shared, and you develop true bonds by simply getting to know one another. Here is where the seeds are sown of trust, cooperation and success of future fraud-fighting.
So while we strive to save the next dollar and do more with less, let’s remember that comes at a cost. Fighting insurance fraud is revenue positive. Investigators save their companies good money by stopping fraudulent claims, and deterring would-be fraudsters who decide the risk is too great.
Why do we gather for conferences and training seminars? When done correctly, we learn, improve and stay ahead of bad actors. This is where the light shines the brightest in building strong teams needed to fight insurance fraud.
Insurers should view attending conferences as dollar-smart investments in combating fraud. Breaking open just one case thanks to knowledge or contacts gained from a conference can recoup the modest expenses many times over. Perhaps this mantra may take hold: “Spend to send so we may better defend.” I look forward to forging these bonds of trust and fraud fighting with you at worthy events throughout the years to come.
Matthew J. Smith is director of government affairs and general counsel for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.