Will the success of the IFB lead to an expansion of its role?

With charges laid against three more fraudsters, added to a list of more than a hundred others, it seems that the decision by UK police forces to work with the insurance industry is paying off.

In fact, John Beadle, chairman of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, said that after months of crackdowns, including the arrest of some key players, they feel they are starting to put the brakes on the number of forced motor collisions by fraudsters looking for insurance payouts.

But if the IFB has shown the success that can be achieved while working alongside police, what does this mean for its future and more importantly its current role?

When the IFB was developed in July 2006, its focus was to be centered upon the dangerous cash for crash frauds wreaking havoc on UK streets.

But could that role be expanded now that its clear, the IFB is a force to be reckoned with?

The answer, it seems, is still up in the air.

“The biggest single threat of organized crime in the insurance industry surrounds cash for crash,” said Beadle.

“We still haven’t beaten it yet. We are looking at other areas but right now we are restricted by the data at our disposal.”

The insurance industry has already been working towards a solution regarding the data dilemma. There have been a number of meetings between insurers, the IFB and government officials over the construction of a public/private database that would allow for the sharing of information surrounding all forms of fraud and fraudsters.

The database was made possible by the introduction of the Serious Crimes Bill but insurers are being tight-lipped on whether there has been any real progress made in moving plans forward.

The idea is that insurers would have access to information compiled by the public sector about fraudsters such as tax dodgers and benefits cheats.

The information could help both sectors expose serial fraudsters and possibly block them from receiving benefits and insurance.

Without access to data about fraud other than the cash for crash scams, it would be difficult for the IFB to effectively expand its role, said Beadle.

The police will also likely be quick to point out that without additional help they simply don’t have the resources to adequately investigate all areas of insurance-related fraud.

Last September, during the Conservative Party Conferences held by AXA, the insurer called on the government to treat fraud more seriously and focus resources on fighting this problem.

It was argued that insurers were making big investments to address fraudulent activity, exposing and stopping frauds worth over £400m in 2005, an increase of 50% compared with the previous year and that cost could continue to grow along with the frequency of the crime.

AXA said, at the time, that although there had been major strides made in fighting fraud, particularly with the arrival of the IFB, more was needed, particularly when it came to the prosecution of insurance-related fraud. Without police involvement and charges laid, there would simply not be an adequate deterrent for fraudsters.

The teaming up of fraud experts and investigators in the insurance industry and police, and the creation of a public/private database would solve a number of shortfalls.

Police would have access to additional resources and intelligence and the insurance industry would finally see charges being laid in these crimes and proper prosecutions taking place.

Although there are a number of moral, legal and structural details that will need to be ironed out over time, a shared database of information is the likely the answer to the ongoing fight against fraud and the expansion of the IFB.