Lies, damned lies and insurance fraud

Fraud costs insurers millions every year, so detecting it is big business. I investigated “voice stress analysis” software, which is supposed to monitor micro-tremors in your voice to suss out when you’re lying. Some insurers swear by it, but others have found their teams of former social workers and police officers consistently outperform any computer. Meanwhile, scientists in the US have said VSA is about as effective as astrology, and there’s even an application for the iPhone. Why not try it for yourself?

On the frontline of the recession

The UK’s 4.7m small and medium-sized enterprises are bearing the brunt of the recession – according to BDO Stoy Hayward, five will close their doors every hour for the rest of this year. I wrote the lead article for Insurance Times’ SME focus, speaking to struggling business owners, financial advisers and brokers to find out what was really going on in this hard-to-reach sector. On a cheerier note, I wrote a separate piece on the retail sector, and found that despite high-profile high-street failures, small local shops weren’t doing too badly…

Crash-test dummies and expensive write-offs

A visit to the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre doesn’t sound like the most exciting afternoon you’ll ever have but Thatcham (as it’s known for short) is a mecca for car enthusiasts all over the world. I went to find out about their work on whiplash claims and came away reeling. An expensive car won’t protect you from the most common car crash injury – BMW and Porsche have repeatedly refused to supply their seats for testing – and VW-devotees would be horrified to see Golfs that have been written off at just 6mph. Most shocking of all was the 2008 Nissan Navara, one of the biggest, meanest looking 4×4 pick-ups on the road, which folded in half in a crash-test at 44mph, and received the worst safety rating since the Rover Metro in 1996.

Going underground

Among my more exciting assignments of late was a day spent undercover with a team of private investigators looking into insurance claims. I learned how to spot a a surveillance team, how not to be seen,  and how it’s slightly less glamorous than it looks on the telly. Oh, and how there’s much, much more of it than you’d think. Women make the best surveillance operatives I’m told – but you have to be prepared to sit still in the back of a white van for eight hours at a time. I’m not planning a career change.