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    Mar 18, 2016

    Travel insurance fraud a growing concern

    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.

    Its president, A. K. Cher, said: "We have people who are now travelling on the expense of insurance companies."

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

    "But one of them still somehow had a credit card to pay for their way home," he noted. "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 decrease 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".