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Organizations and industries across the globe have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, but few have been more effected than the travel industry. Unfortunately, both the short and even long-term future of this industry looks bleak. Consequently, this significantly impacts travel insurance companies.

For a view on how the travel insurance industry is responding to the challenges created by this pandemic, we asked Tiziana Fedrigo, Claims Process Specialist at Europ Assistance in Italy, about how quickly her organization identified a change in fraudulent behavior , reacted to the crisis and implemented the lessons learned moving forward.

Shift Technology: Italy was one of the first countries to impose a lockdown. In response, how quickly did you start identifying new fraud patterns?

Tiziana Fedrigo: Monitoring claims is crucial for us. Identifying a change in frequency and reason for cancellation allowed us to very quickly understand that something suspicious was happening. As early as the first week of February, we began to recognize that our customers were using very simple and acute pathologies to justify the cancellation. We knew we had to implement very rapidly new defences to manage the suspicious activities.

Shift Technology: Once you began to identify new fraud patterns, how quickly were you able to update fraud models and get them deployed?

Tiziana Fedrigo:  Within a couple of weeks were able to identify the strategies some policyholders were adopting. Working with Shift’s Data Scientists, we developed and deployed three new specific fraud scenarios related to trip cancellation to identify and stop the suspect claims. On a daily basis a list of suspicious claims is sent to our fraud investigators to speed up investigations.

Shift Technology: Once the lockdown restrictions are lifted do you anticipate fraud investigators and claims handlers work habits will change?

Tiziana Fedrigo:  Despite very efficient business continuity plans and remote working capability, our remote fraud investigators were impacted by the lockdown. In particular, our medical experts were unable to verify claims in person and had to rely on phone interviews with the claimants as an alternative. In the coming months, to help our fraud investigators we are providing social network analysis tools and remote access via the internet.

Shift technology: Looking ahead what do you think the future holds for travel and assistance insurance?

Tiziana Fedrigo:  The future looks quite uncertain for travel in 2020. Immediately after the pandemic restrictions in Italy, people have stopped travelling and as a consequence are no longer buying insurance coverage for their new trips. We do not know how life will change in the coming year. Domestic holidays will probably be preferred, planes and trains will be replaced by cars for transportation. Insurance companies will have to re-style their products and focus their attention on new types of fraud schemes. We know from past experience that fraudsters are very adaptable in changing their strategies, we have to be prepared to identify these new scenarios.

Click to learn more about what industry experts are saying on the impact of fraud due to COVID-19.