Unemployment is rising due to COVID-19, and some of the top risk management firms in the industry have indicated that fraud will also quickly increase. While claims fraud, inflated repair invoices and other common scams are probably the first that come to mind, roadside assistance fraud is another issue to which insurers should pay attention. It’s more common that one might think.
Especially as insurers increasingly offer ecosystem services such as roadside assistance to strengthen customer loyalty and generate additional revenue, it’s important that they ensure their roadside assistance partners are taking measures to protect against fraud, which can range from customers abusing the aid to get free gas, to tow operators sending fraudulent invoices.
Here are some of the ways to protect against roadside assistance fraud:
Fast Payments Promote Trust
The adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true in roadside assistance fraud. Instituting policies that reduce the incentive to commit fraud is far less painful than attempting to recover a loss, and one of these measures is to pay tow operators quickly. Especially in difficult times, those who issue payment within minutes instead of the standard Net-30 will foster loyalty that cuts down on fraud, especially while many companies are struggling to keep operations running.
Tow operators balk at complex billing that deducts difficult-to-understand fees from their payment. The fees create unpleasant surprises that can make the difference between a profit and a loss. So, make sure that roadside assistance partners offer clear and transparent billing.
Transparency in Invoicing
With fraud on the rise, be on the lookout for roadside vendors that will attempt to bill you for “ghost” services. One way to mitigate this type of fraud is by asking your roadside vendor to provide transparency into completed services, ideally in real time. Require your roadside vendor to provide an unfiltered view into jobs, as well as customer confirmation that the job was completed. This kind of transparency makes it far less likely that you’ll be inaccurately billed or overcharged. Plus, this level of transparency gives you a better view into the customer experience.
Transparency in Operations
History tells us that, during times of high unemployment, we are likely to see more bad actors entering gig economy jobs. But fraud is often easily caught at the background check level, which can prevent bad actors from getting into the system in the first place. While it's easy to provide a false name, it’s more difficult to provide a false Social Security number and matching drivers license. So, it’s important to have transparency in how tow operators are onboarded into your roadside assistance partner’s network and the methods they use to verify the identity of each driver and the person's background. Ask about the types of checks they’re using to ensure identity verification, proper licensure and insurance compliance. Ideally, you want visibility all the way down to the driver level of who is servicing policyholders.
You need transparency because, while background checks have been an industry standard for years in roadside assistance, they may not be conducted at the appropriate level. For example, it’s common to accept a prior, third-party background check for a new contractor, a practice that leaves critical gaps in a contractor’s history and doesn’t necessarily report on charges or information relevant to the position. A “clear background check” usually does not tell you that the driver’s license is suspended, for instance.
Background checks should be run annually at a minimum, but there are now next-generation background check services that will run in the background to provide live monitoring of arrest feeds, county reports and other proprietary information sites. This kind of continuous monitoring can flag events that could signal trouble, providing the opportunity to prevent fraud before it occurs.
The Importance of Analytics
Some policy holders may look to their roadside policy to help get what they see as “free fuel” as many times as possible. It’s a common scam, where drivers purposely avoid filling up and, when they run out of fuel, call the roadside assistance service to get some for free.
This kind of fraud is most effectively detected through technology, specifically artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics. Data analysis can identify previously overlooked trends to catch these kinds of issues and resolve them quickly. Insurers save money when machines and automation do the work instead of adding to headcount or finding problems only after the damage has been done.
Even as fraud is anticipated to increase, roadside assistance many times has been overlooked. Don’t settle for passive fraud detection. Demand transparency and encourage the use of technology to mitigate risk, which will both reinforce your reputation and drive your bottom line.