Cases of fake travel insurance claims rising

Visitors at a National Association of Travel Agents Singapore travel fair. With more people going overseas and greater awareness of the need for coverage, the travel insurance segment has seen rapid growth, says the General Insurance Association.
Visitors at a National Association of Travel Agents Singapore travel fair. With more people going overseas and greater awareness of the need for coverage, the travel insurance segment has seen rapid growth, says the General Insurance Association.ST FILE PHOTO

Fast-growing segment has become a target for cheats, says insurance body

While motor insurance fraud has traditionally been a huge worry for insurers, companies are seeing an emerging trend - dubious travel insurance claims.

The General Insurance Association (GIA) said the sector is growing fast as more people go overseas and also because of heightened awareness of the need for coverage.

Along with personal accident and health, travel insurance accounted for 21.6 per cent of the total general insurance business last year - up from 19.8 per cent and 18 per cent in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

Motoring coverage makes up the biggest chunk at 31.5 per cent.

At the same time, the segment has become a target for fraudsters.

Although the GIA has not collated figures, it set up a workgroup last year to tackle the relatively new problem.

  • HOW MUCH TRAVEL, PERSONAL ACCIDENT AND HEALTH INSURANCE ACCOUNT FOR GENERAL INSURANCE BUSINESS IN SINGAPORE

    21.6% IN 2015

    19.8% IN 2014

    18%  IN 2013

 

Its president, Mr A. K. Cher, told The Straits Times: "We have people who are now travelling at the expense of insurance companies."

He cited a recent case of a group of three who claimed they were robbed at an island resort in a neighbouring country.

"But one of them still somehow had a credit card to pay for their way home," he said. "When we checked, we found they had all bought travel insurance from eight companies here."

The GIA is now looking to data analytics to help crack down on such cases. Mr Cher said it is working with French start-up Shift Technology to sieve through data to identify anomalies. Fraud aside, "they will be able to see if we have overpaid for a certain type of claims, for instance", he added.

Insurers have also hired former investigators from the Commercial Affairs Department to go after cheats.

The GIA estimates that 20 per cent of claims are fraudulent. For motor insurance alone, that translates to more than $100 million.

Last year, insurers incurred motor claims totalling $538.9 million, down from $591.2 million - in line with Singapore's shrinking vehicle population. Motorists paid an average premium of $1,192 - a dip of 2.9 per cent from 2014's $1,227, and the third consecutive dip since 2013.

Gross motor premiums collected stood at $1.14 billion, down from $1.19 billion previously.

Motor insurers posted an underwriting profit of $120.1 million last year, their second highest following 2014's extraordinary $149.5 million. In announcing the results yesterday, the GIA - which has 35 member companies - cited intense competition as a reason for the dip.

The general insurance business on the whole - including fire, work injury and marine cargo and hull - posted an underwriting profit of $325 million, 17 per cent lower than 2014's $392 million.

Mr Cher said this was "a commendable performance despite the turbulence caused by the economic and trade slowdown, other external headwinds and stiffer competition".

An earlier version of the story missed out the word "former" in the sentence "Insurers have also hired former investigators from the Commercial Affairs Department to go after cheats". We are sorry for the error.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Cases of fake travel insurance claims rising'. Print Edition | Subscribe