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Monday, 16 September

World Comes Crashing Down for Claims Handlers

An Aviva employee who passed thousands of customers’ motor insurance claims details to an associate who then sold them on to an accident claims management company has been sentenced, along with a fellow co-conspirator.

Matthew Cooper, aged 28, from Manchester, was sentenced to 10 months suspended for 12 months and ordered to work 180 hours unpaid at Manchester Crown Court having previously pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation. It followed an investigation by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).

Cooper’s co-conspirator, Oliver Simpson, aged 32, from Manchester, also pleaded guilty to offences under the Data Protection Act and was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 court costs.

Together they made approximately £20,000 stealing and selling the Aviva data.

Cooper, working as a claims handler in Aviva’s bodily injury team, passed customer accident data from the claims file to Simpson. The latter would then hand the data to a firm that would use the details to make unsolicited phone calls to induce customers into submitting a claim for personal injury, even though they may not have been injured. The claims management company he passed these on to was unaware that the data had been stolen.

Some customers who were reluctant to co-operate, were subjected to a high number of nuisance calls in an attempt to persuade them to change their mind. Those who went along with the arrangement, not recognising that they were being induced into making a fraudulent claim, were handed over to solicitors who submitted the claims on their behalf.

 

Major investigation launched

Following a number of complaints from customers in early 2013 and a number of third parties contacting Aviva to say they no longer wanted them to handle their injury claims directly, it began a major investigation to look into the potential of a data theft. As part of its internal investigation to identify the source of the potential theft, Aviva undertook an analysis of the activity of its claims handlers, the volume of claims within each handler’s footprint and the number resulting in personal injury claims submitted through a solicitor.

The person identified as the source of the theft was Matthew Cooper. In September 2013 he was interviewed by Aviva and claimed he was selling claims data to a man called ‘Steve’ who he would meet outside a pub in Manchester. He was immediately suspended and later dismissed for gross misconduct. The matter was reported to the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED). Aviva also contacted all customers who may have been affected by the theft of data to alert them to the issue.

Further investigations identified that cash deposits totalling thousands of pounds had been paid into Cooper’s account on a monthly basis between November 2012 and August 2013. It was also revealed that he was making regular payments to online betting sites.

Cooper was arrested by IFED detectives in November 2013. By examining his mobile phone the investigation team were then able to trace Simpson, who was arrested in March 2014. Transactions from both Cooper and Simpson’s accounts later showed them being in Portugal on the same date.

 

Abuse of trust

“Matthew Cooper completely abused his position of trust and responsibility within Aviva, working with Oliver Simpson to steal and sell people’s personal data at a substantial profit to themselves,” explained Detective Constable Mick Jones, who led the investigation for the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department. “These are often not just stand alone offences but instead can be one cog in a much bigger criminal wheel being controlled by organised crime gangs. By working with industry to bring criminals likes Cooper and Simpson to justice there is every chance we are also putting a dent in a much larger criminal network.

Andrew Morrish, Claims Operations Director, while stating a degree of satisfaction about the two individuals being brought to justice refused to comment on whether the sentences handed to the pair were sufficient deterrent for a crime that causes so much upset. “Stealing accident data in order to reap obscene profits for personal injury claims highlights the dysfunctional way the current claims system operates,” stated Mr Morrish. “Aviva has a zero-tolerance attitude towards data theft and we will work tirelessly with the police, ICO and others to bring to justice those that commit a crime by stealing our customers’ data.”

Picture: Two former Aviva employees have been found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of fraud by false representation in vehicle claims

Article written by Mike Gannon

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