Straight talking from the Editor’s keyboard;
It’s no secret that fraud has expanded as the UK goes digital, plus the pandemic support packages of grants and loans also brought out fraudsters keen to manipulate company figures, or simply invent shell companies, to cash in on the largesse being dished out. Scam emails and text messages continue to be something of a growth industry too, especially those targeting the older citizen, who is only online because they’re being forced into it by companies – and the government. Then there are fake injury, travel or other insurance claims, which tend to increase during times of economic hardship and inflation.
So is there a solution? Hopefully the problem can be contained, which will benefit insurers as a robust attitude towards insurance fraud in particular helps to keep claims down. We need prosecutions and in some cases, jail time, to deter others. But prosecuting overseas phone scammers seems like something of a pipe dream by the government. Nvertheless, something has to be done, or we will end up like Ireland, where fake claims are a cottage industry.
The fact is, where prosecutions for making false statements are extremely rare, a culture of “try your luck” has evolved, which even includes the odd TD ( an MP in Ireland). Incredibly, despite Maria Bailey’s injury claim being proven to be false by her own sporting prowess, the former TD has issued a stream of interviews and statements where she plays the victim and wonders why her career in politics appears to be over.
For insurers, that issue of cultural attitudes towards fraud, a denial of any wrongdoing and a growing acceptance that insurance companies are “fair game” for an exaggerated or fake claim, is one that will take decades to overturn. If ever. To an extent, it is part of British culture too and is seen as getting one over the system by many on the Left, or particular social groups, who feel aggreived that the system is somehow against them and insurers are making good profits. Indeed the entire notion of capitalism – of making any profit – itself is under attack, as woke Identity Politics and Climate Globalism replaces established religion and party politics across much of Western Europe and North America.
Your own “lived experience” seemingly trumps any rules or laws, or definitions of right vs wrong, because what matters more than any legal definition or parameters upon your behaviour are your hurt feelings. Your grievance deserves compo, hashtag #reparations. One way to get them is from insurance companies, so you can expect activists to demand cash payments for some policy T&Cs that were decided in a London coffee house two centuries ago. Yep, it’s coming.
RISHI HAS AN IMAGE PROBLEM
For UK PM Rishi Sunak, his big problem when cracking down on fraud is that parts of his family’s business interests appear to minimise their tax liabilities, in a perfectly legal way. Everyone knows that the rich can easily protect their assets and income from any tax regime, on a carousel of legal, and long established, avoidance schemes and offshore company formations, IP ownership in separate havens etc. But many people, not just hard Left wingers, who pay their 40% income tax and 25% Corporation Tax, will find it galling to listen to someone who lives a privileged lifestyle lecture the rest of us on avoiding scammers.
Breaking news Rishi; many people think politicians of all stripes are scammers, plus there is very little faith in public officials’ honesty either.
SO IS THERE A PLAN?
Yes, it’s low key stuff, but Sunak’s statements are laudable as regards fraud;
Here’s how we’re going to stop it:
- We will outlaw so-called “SIM farms”, technical devices that allow criminals to scam texts to thousands of people at the same time
- We will work with Ofcom to stop more cases of number ‘spoofing’, where scammers impersonate UK numbers and trick people into thinking they’re speaking to banks, telephone companies or other legitimate businesses
- We will ban cold calls on all financial products, so that anyone who receives calls trying to sell them products such as crypto currency schemes or insurance will know it’s a scam.
There are sound ideas there and some might say why has it taken so long to tackle the fake UK phone number racket, which some may say seems to have BT and other networks helping to enable confusion about the true location of where a cold caller resides. But Sunak’s big problem with all this is that his wife is seen as a billionaire who plays the system to the max, rather than pay taxes in a more, shall we say, generous spirit. Then there is the bigger problem of government fraud, corruption and sheer incompetence, which sees tens of millions vanish every day. Let’s not even get started on the SNP…
MORE MONEY FOR CITY OF LONDON POLICE UNIT
A healthy £30m extra for new National Fraud Centres, plus 400 new jobs at the City of London Police unit, which does sterling work in combating fraud is welcome of course. The IFB also see the moves as being positive too;
Ursula Jallow, Director at the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), said:
“We welcome the new measures being introduced to tackle fraud which have been announced by the Prime Minister today. Every minute in the UK an insurance scam takes place, resulting in countless vulnerable people being exploited and facing even greater costs. A ban on cold calls to prevent bogus insurance products being sold is a positive development. We also hope that these new fraud measures will make it more difficult for unscrupulous claims management companies to target the public and farm unsolicited insurance claims.”
The ABI also welcomed the moves;
ABI Director General Hannah Gurga said:
“As the single biggest type of crime in England and Wales, causing misery to millions and often affecting the most vulnerable, it’s vital that we unite in our efforts to tackle fraud as quickly as possible. We fully support the Government’s approach of using partnerships to harness the capabilities and resources of the public and private sector to drive out the scammers and restore people’s faith. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government on the development of a charter to make our sector more resilient to insurance fraud.”
It’s all good, albeit relatively low budget compared to the billions given out to friends of government ministers during the scramble for PPE and ventilators (remember those?), or the millions invested by local Councils (Labour, Lib Dem and Tory) in various companies, often set up by local public sector executives, or recently retired ones. Missing millions in collapsed energy companies, or fake invoices paid to dodgy law firms, are rarely the subject of Proceeds of Crime action. At least successful ones where the cash is recovered on begalf of Council Tax payers.
The list goes on; ferries that never completed, land that is mysteriously sold to housing developers yet the funds are never distributed to the local taxpayers. Charities that fail to submit meaningful accounts, or actually spend donations on the good causes they profess to support. Britain doesn’t seem to work anymore, every institution is broken, nobody seems accountable for failure. If someone senior does resign, then Non Disclosure Agreements suppress any knowledge of the massive payoffs given for settling the scandals. As Telford MP Lucy Allen has recently noted, not ONE person has been charged or brought to court for the Post Office/Fujitsu scandal, after people took their own lives, or lost everything they owned. Despite that record of failure, Fujitsu was awarded the contract for the recent Emergency Alert system.
The levels of fraud and corruption within the machinery of UK governments (all four) and public sector departments is enormous and nothing is being done to address that immense problem. Again, we are back to culture, an ingrained culture of entitlement, nepotism and the knowledge that it’s very unlikely that jail time will be the consequence of being caught with your hand in the till, or dishing out a juicy contract to a Uni chum. Or a bloke down the pub.
So long as that attitude prevails across the public and NGO sector, the big fish continue their fraud fest, whilst the small fry are targeted by those whose entire working life is a game of turning a blind eye and watching your pension pot. It isn’t good enough, and it certainly isn’t a functioning democracy.