DuVall: Battling Fraud During a Pandemic
Monday, May 18, 2020 | 845 | 0 | min read
As my 10-year-old kicked off week nine of distance learning from home and I entered my fourth month as deputy executive director of the coalition, I've had a prime opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary circumstances the world is confronting at the moment.
A typical weekday morning involves making breakfast, packing lunch, checking for brushed teeth and moving out the door to school and work. Now, we are dressing from the waist up, setting up virtual classrooms and meetings and have no plans to leave our home.
These are indeed strange times. Most mornings, I find myself awake much earlier, reading the news and contemplating what it all means, mainly for the anti-fraud community. If you had said to me on my first day that a month into my role, our entire team, let alone the world, would be almost completely virtual and that the U.S. economy would be shut down, I would have never have believed it. And yet, here we are.
Unemployment is at a record high, and people are afraid and experiencing major pressures they never knew before. There are so many challenges and losses coming from a world with COVID-19. The pandemic has forced an environment where adaptability and agility are a must for sustainability and survival.
New to the fraud fight and the coalition, I have had to be agile and adaptable as well. I've had to learn at an accelerated pace and immerse myself in all things insurance fraud to assist our team in responding to COVID-19. A novel coronavirus, in essence, baptized me. There are a few lessons I've learned about the fight against fraud that will remain relevant long after the pandemic is over.
Necessity is the mother of invention
This adage could not be more true right now. The saying implies that when something is essential for survival, the human mind finds creative ways to attain it. There are a lot of people in need and if history is any guide, we in the anti-fraud community soon will be very busy combating a spike in fraud. During the Great Recession of 2007-09, we saw a similar spike in home arson, auto give-ups, bogus workers' compensation claims and the like, all to collect insurance money to offset devastating financial losses.
Many fraudsters committing insurance crimes are ordinary people looking for a way out of a difficult situation. They could be friends, neighbors or family members who fall victim to circumstance. Pressured to find a way out, they’ll “invent" the idea of committing fraud. They will think the scam is original and believe the likelihood of being caught is low. We know this could not be further from the truth.
Now, more than ever, we must make people aware of the dangers and high risks of fraud. The anti-fraud community must put forth our best efforts to protect potential fraudsters from themselves. By ensuring awareness of insurance scams and the consequences, we help prevent people who are just like us from becoming victims and perpetrators of fraud during their most vulnerable hour.
It was for this reason the coalition produced a series of infographics designed to inform and deter the potential fraudulent schemes arising from COVID-19. We welcome anyone to use our infographics as resources to protect consumers.
When the tide goes out, you discover who’s swimming naked
When the economy is good and things are going well, there is less incentive to invest resources into the anti-fraud cause. Once the economy takes a plunge, however, stakeholders in the insurance industry begin to demand answers, and harsh truths are revealed. As Warren Buffet said, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked."
Since the start of the pandemic, the coalition was well-prepared because our fight against fraud is year-round. We've proactively pushed out anti-fraud messages to consumers and the anti-fraud community. However, in our response, we recognized a clear distinction of preparedness between those who invested time and resources in battling fraud before COVID-19, and those who did not.
Investing in anti-fraud efforts when things are at their best may be the key to survival when circumstances are not as good. A solid anti-fraud budget and a strategy that is agile and adaptable will hold up relatively well under adverse conditions. Everyone who is without such a plan will be revealed when the tide goes out again.
Crisis creates opportunities for greater innovation
It has been nothing short of amazing to witness what we can achieve when common, clear priorities and necessity unite people. For example, an unprecedented event occurred on March 31. Thousands of fraud fighters joined in a webinar for a common goal: the largest gathering of fraud fighters in history, to push back against insurance fraud.
This monumental event and many others that took place virtually are a testament that, even alongside the natural anxiety and fear during these uncertain times, we can seize opportunities for innovation and greater connectivity.
So as we shift from surviving the crisis to playing an active role in the recovery, let’s carry these lessons with us in our efforts to create a future that’s free of insurance fraud.
A.D. DuVall is deputy executive director for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.