Public Outreach

Published quarterly, these reports cover activities in government affairs and public outreach. Click on image to download a pdf of the latest reports.

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In this issue:

* Tablet devices: From geeky gimmick to mainstream must-have

* News from the Coalition

* Fraud bloggers persist amid decline

* Nuts & Bolts

* Saints Row game has un-saintly fraud twist

* Four Questions for Alexis Lambert

Tablet devices: From geeky gimmick to mainstream must-have

Swift and sudden consumer adoption of mobile tablet devices such as Apple's dominant iPad is opening new outreach channels for communicators. But it's still a scramble as communicators figure out how to send their messages to tablet readers whose numbers are growing like over-watered kudzu.

Tablets have shifted from a geeky gimmick by curious early adopters to a mainstream must-have for tens of millions of consumers looking for news, videos and vast fields of other information on the run.

Call it the tablet takeover. The trend has mushroomed in just the last year. This latest round of device Darwinism also calls into question the pc's future as more Americans gravitate to miniature mobile experiences with smart phones and tablets.

Tablets are changing the way millions of people consume news and gather online information. These oversized electronic graham crackers thus will present fraud fighters a potentially far-reaching new way to expand the reach of their deterrent messages.

Tablet sales are spiraling upward at a dizzying pace. Some 29 percent of Americans own a tablet or e-reading device, according to a Pew study released in January. The share of adults who own tablet computers suddenly doubled from 10 percent to 19 percent between mid-December and early January.

Apple sold roughly 15 million iPads during the 2011 holiday season alone. Android and iOS are among the prime pursuers, but for now Apple is the big dawg.

Devices smaller, lighter & thinner

Tablets are merely the latest upheaval in the tectonic changes reshaping how consumers send, receive and perceive information. Smaller, lighter and thinner mobile devices could be the trajectory for years to come.

Just how to capitalize on tablets as effective outreach channels is a subject of growing buzz among communicators. They are figuring out how what content works best, and how to package that content.

Tablets are too new to be a factor in anti-fraud outreach efforts. But if usage keeps growing at this pace, fraud fighters will need to make the devices an integral part of their outreach mix.

Staff at the operational levels have a number of issues to deal with.

Websites are being shaped to fit small tablet screens. Homepages are clutter-free. Large and bold images, with minimal text, tend to hold sway. Users can easily touch or swipe from one section or page to the next, at a glance, with intuitive ease.

Communicators thus must learn how to place tablet-friendly news and feature stories. Newspapers and magazines around the U.S. also are pumping millions of dollars into developing tablet-based news formats with staff and their own news. Publishers are betting the devices will have staying power and profit potential.

Apple even has created its own subscription news organization to service its iPad with news and features. The Daily is an eyeball-grabbing tabloid-style collection of splashy news with large headlines often punctuated with exclamation points!!!

Story pitching a new science

Pitching story ideas to tablet reporters and editors is an early-stage experimental science, but some general strategies apply.

Going after old-style newspapers generally involves a story angle, and maybe with static bullet lists or stats to illustrate the concept.

Pitching tablet editors, however, works best by selling them a full multimedia experience. The tablet world is one of sight, sound, motion, color and interactivity. Feature stories are especially welcome.

This means stories with interesting video, audio and colorful graphics. Photos, charts and diagrams might play well — but they're a stronger sell if they're interactive. Colorful infographics also are valued.

Glossied-up story pitches can wear on budgets, but curation is an affordable shortcut.

Including free content from other sources with your own material is the gist. Another anti-fraud group's charts of anti-fraud stats might be one example. Or maybe a demo staged-crash video, footage of a home-burning training exercise by a fire department, or law-enforcement video catching someone faking a slip-and-fall.

News releases should be brief, precise and crisp for tight space limits and at-a-glance readers with low attention spans.

Despite all the rules, a clever story idea that stokes an editor's imagination still may get placement, with or without multi-media.

Tablets taken seriously

Tablets are popular in part because they're a satisfying midpoint for highly mobile device users. Smart phones may be too small and laptaps too clunky. Split the difference and you have the tablet.

Industries are beginning to take tablets seriously as a phenomenon. They're shaping outreach strategies to grab the attention of millions of consumers who use social and mobile media for their main information needs. Both information content, and how it is packaged, are being developed to meet the specs of tablet readers.

Before long, mobile devices such as tables and smart phones may become America's dominant consumer information sources, just as pc's replaced typewriters and typewriters overrode the fountain pen.

The tablet's longterm role in the consumer media mix is sorting itself out. But so far, fraud fighters soon will have to treat tablets as prime-time partners in deterring Americans from fraud.

Fraud bloggers persist amid decline

At their best, blogs are the conscience of a company. They give a CEO or other executive a forum for a relaxed, personal and candid dialogue with readers.

A good blog is almost like a fireside chat. The writer airs honest views of industry issues, talks about the company's directions, and responds to consumer gripes in a respectful give-and-take. Admitting flaws when needed also is fair game.

This kind of candor can grow the company's credibility because it is sincere. But institutional blogs are a disappearing breed, though a handful of insurance fraud-related blogs still operate.

Blogs were all the rage for several years beginning around 2007. But companies have begun dropping them in the last couple of years.

Thinking up ideas and writing them became too much trouble. Blogs now are giving way to the quick punch of short Facebook, Twitter and YouTube postings.

Blogs disappearing

In fact blogs have declined for the first time among Inc. 500 companies since 2007. Half of the companies used blogs in 2010, but only 37 percent did last year. Only 23 percent of Fortune 500 companies even bothered to blog, according to the Center for Marketing Research, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Released early in 2012, it's the latest research on the topic.

Meanwhile, usage of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn keeps marching stoutly upward, the study shows.

Despite the tailspin, seven of 10 corporate bloggers say blogging has increased their visibility within their industry, and 56 percent say their blog has helped position their company as a thought leader, according to a Technorati survey.

Several insurance groups still faithfully churn out blogs. They range from 100 percent fraud content to occasional but timely mentions amid other insurance news.

The Coalition's FraudBlog posts at least one new topic each week. The blog digs deeply into wide-ranging issues.

"Consumers shouldn't pay a potentially terrible price for a contract that a shady contractor tricked them into signing. For consumers, this is protection. For insurers, this is good business sense," the Coalition's Howard Goldblatt recently posted in urging passage of state laws clamping down on sleazy contractors.

Dishing out straight talk

Another full-time fraud and auto-theft outlet is NICB Blog, maintained by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Other insurance groups with general-topic blogs post occasional fraud commentaries or cases. Straight Talk is what Lynne McChristian dishes out as the Florida rep for the Insurance Information Institute.

McChristian covers almost any insurance topic, but keeps consumers and insurance insiders regularly in the loop about anti-fraud initiatives in the state. She faithfully updated visitors during pushes to pass much-needed no-fault auto fraud reforms in 2012 and 2011.

"The real pain in the neck is how the scams are a pain in your wallet," McChristian wrote in working to rally public support for reforms this winter.

She also covers other fraud issues. "You wouldn't go to an unlicensed medical provider for your annual physical exam. So why do some people who claim injuries in an auto accident go to unlicensed facilities for treatment?" she wrote about a strong Tampa-area county ordinance designed to shut down crooked medical clinics last year.

A hard sell to consumers

Complicating the challenge of institutional blogging is that consumers aren't totally sold on them. Just over a third of active social media users trust corporate blogs, 42 percent are neutral, and 21 percent don't trust them, according to eMarketer.

Does this reflect an inherent flaw in blogs, or simply off-target execution? How do you reconcile the high grades corporate execs give their blogs and the apparently lower grades by consumers? Certainly, few people will follow a blog that's a transparently self-serving company ad masquerading as honest dialogue.

Honesty, candor, openness and interesting topics well-told are better recipes for building a loyal following. The holdout insurance-fraud bloggers are working to perfect this formula.

Saints Row game has un-saintly fraud twist

Insurance fraud is a big feature of a popular and über-violent video game called Saints Row. The Saints are a crime syndicate. You're supposed to make your character, who's a syndicate member, achieve a series of dangerous missions.

He rings up extra points by throwing himself in front of buildings, objects and moving cars to create sham injuries and steal insurance dollars.

A large underworld of online game reviewers are talking eagerly about the game's fraud aspects, reaching possibly thousands of young gamers. This is another example of the cultural influences that are helping convince many consumers believe insurance fraud is an enjoyable and socially acceptable way both to make money and succeed in life.

Here is how reviewers are getting gamers stoked about the newly upgraded version, Saints Row: The Third.

"I would do *all three* of the Insurance Fraud mission sets as soon as you can. This gets you a ton of respect, a ton of money, and some added health benefits as well," writes one reviewer.

One reviewer offers tips to increase fraud loot: "Classics like Insurance Fraud have your character hurling themselves into traffic while ragdolling into as many other cars as possible."

Yet another reviewer offers tips on how to increase your insurance fraud points:

"Multipliers are key in order to reach the goal. Keep these tricks in mind when going for a high cash score:

"Witnesses: Witnesses will increase the money score.

"Vehicle: Getting hit by a vehicle will multiply the fall by 2.

"Vehicle eject: Receive 5x the score when thrown from the windshield of your vehicle...

"Air Time: How long you stay in the air.

"Distance: How far a vehicle pushes you backward."

Says another: "Saints Row 3 quick cash guide 3 — insurance fraud — This is another easy mini game to get some cash. Basically start it and take a car to a highway. Park on the highway and run into traffic. It'll be slow at first but once you build up the adrenaline meter you can start to move around mid air and get some real big numbers going. Just remember to try to stay in the air for as long as you can or on top of a car for as long as you can."

And this review: "Saints Row: The Third takes a classic and an all-time favorite and adds a new twist. What better way to earn cash than to fling yourself into oncoming cars? Money is the goal as usual. In order to make more of it, you'll have to throw your Saint into some painful situations. Just activate the ragdoll while running to toss your character in that direction. This works best when multiple cars are speeding toward you."

Making waves: news from the Coalition

JIFA getting to truth behind fraud trends

Inject some science into creating TV ads, and the spots can convince people not to commit insurance fraud.

Fraud bureaus are showing much resilience despite budget cuts that threaten to degrade the crime-fighting efforts of some units. Overall, fraud bureaus are still ringing up solid numbers.

Keeping police crash reports out of the hands of fraudsters is a key thrust of state legislation designed to prevent swindlers from luring crash victims to shady clinics for useless and possibly dangerous treatment.

These are insights of several feature stories in the newest issue of the Journal of Insurance Fraud in America (JIFA).

JIFA is the Coalition's quarterly publication that showcases leadership-level articles by some of the best minds in the anti-fraud business.

JIFA looks behind the headlines and explains pressing fraud issues in detail, with solutions to guide the way. Breaking trends...decisive looks at the legal limits of mining social state legislation, what problems they're trying to shut down, and why measures succeed or fail.

Turning cameras onto fraud trends

Noodling around: Noodle Davis allegedly competed as a martial arts champion while illegally collecting workers compensation money as a Los Angeles fire fighter. "You're deliberately scamming a policy and causing honest businesses to increase their prices," the Coalition told ABC World News Tonight as the lead fraud expert in an expose on disability fraud this spring. "If (insurers) suspect fraud, they're going to go after you."

Storm chasing: The Coalition also placed a story about storm-chasing contractors with CBS Evening News, and put the reporters hot on the trail of a contractor called Precision Builders that's charged with insurance fraud.

Other contractors also were caught allegedly damaging roofs and siding to hike their insurance fees. Shady contractors are a widespread trend, and the Coalition is working to draw national attention to the problem.

Dealing with double-dealing contractors

Max Jackson spent much of the biting Montana winter shivering in a house with only a tarp for a roof. The roof of Sharon Gonzales' house was pulled apart leaving her exposed to the New Mexico chill and $6,000 poorer.

Both homeowners were flimflammed by double-dealing contractors who took their money and then bolted without finishing the jobs. So reads the Coalition's latest Fraud of the Month.

"Purloining contractors quickly exit after conning homeowners out of a sizable downpayment. Other cheaters do shoddy work that leaves a home still in bad shape and needing yet more repairs. They also hike their fees by causing more damage, like widening the hole a falling tree made on a roof," the feature warns.

Each month the Coalition highlights the month's worst case or trend. The goal is to humanize fraud, and show consumers how honest people's lives are harmed by this crime.

Nuts & Bolts

IASIU chapters facing up to Facebook

Several anti-fraud groups have active Facebook sites. Check into the Georgia IASIU chapter's site. Visitors are greeted by a large banner that nearly shouts, "Insurance Fraud Costs Everyone!"

The chapter posts a variety of stories, like how a salvaged auto bought in Georgia led to fraud charges in Nova Scotia. Or the Coalition's news update that Alabama's statehouse has passed a bill making insurance fraud a specific crime.

The fraud unit of the Louisiana State Police also has a site, as does the fraud program of the Virginia State Police.

That site prominently displays the fraud program's iconic glowing green eye and "Stamp Out Fraud" logo. This spreads their anti-fraud brand and reminds Virginians to stay away from fraud.

Adjusters must adjust to claimants

Adjusters are an insurer's frontliners. They are tasked with helping consumers at highly sensitive points in the claim cycle. Adjusters also play a vital in rooting out fraud. But they can damage their insurer's reputation by gruffly treating all claimants like criminals.

So cautions Sam Friedman in an online article he bylined for Claims Management magazine. Friedman knows of what he speaks. He is an insurance leader for Deloitte Touche, former publisher and editor of National Underwriter, and longtime industry observer.

"If an adjuster is rude, unresponsive, gruff, overly suspicious, or otherwise unprofessional it reflects badly on the whole insurance company - indeed, on the entire insurance industry!

"And you can bet that poor experience will be shared with family, friends, colleagues, and anyone else someone who feels wronged can reach via the social media megaphone. In a worst-case scenario, bad behavior by an adjuster can result in a complaint to the local insurance department, a call to a consumer affairs reporter, or even a bad-faith lawsuit," Friedman writes.

Okla. mobilizes mobile website

The Oklahoma insurance department has created an app and website for Android mobile-phone users. Though it's not fraud-specific, the site is a good example of how fraud fighters could think about gearing their sites for millions of mobile users.

The Android-friendly homepage has only five large, brightly colored links containing just 11 words (including abbreviations), and all are capitalized. Complex graphics, text and art are out. Hurried and harried Android users thus can quickly access the most essential information on the run.

Four Questions for Alexis Lambert

Florida is one of the hottest of America's hotspots for insurance fraud. This crime is a big industry that affects all Floridians, of all ages. Not for nothing, for example, is Florida considered by many as America's epicenter of no-fault auto fraud. The state has mounted a vigorous counterattack on insurance fraud. The daunting task of keeping anti-fraud messages on-target and stirring public outrage falls to Alexis Lambert, chief communicator for the insurance department. More specifically, she's Communications Director for Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and the Department of Financial Services, which includes the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud. Alexis shares with FraudWire her thoughts on the role of public outreach in the insurance department's anti-fraud efforts.

No-fault auto fraud has been among the biggest fraud issues in Florida for years. Tell us about your key communications goals over the last year — were they directed at passing anti-fraud reforms or ongoing building of broad public intolerance?

Since Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater took office in January of 2011, our key communications goal has been to educate Floridians about the impact of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud on their bottom line. Although PIP fraud has been an issue in Florida for many years, we were surprised to find that many Floridians were not aware of the impact it was having on their auto insurance rates. As the public awareness grew, so did the outcries for reform.

What were your messages, what were your biggest barriers to success, how did you cut through the clutter to get those messages across, and where did you innovate?

In this challenging economic climate, we focused on communicating the impact of this fraud on a Florida family. We let the data drive the discussion, by showing Floridians, on average, how much their auto insurance rates had gone up over the past few years while all other factors — population, number of drivers and number of accidents have either remained the same or decreased. Leaving only one logical conclusion — fraud was driving rates up.

Our primary obstacles came from the enterprising industries taking advantage of and making their millions off of this lucrative system while the average Floridian was losing. Ultimately, we were successful because our data were solid and our message spoke to hardworking Floridians trying to make ends meet.

Fraud is so vast in Florida — from auto, senior scams, to organized crime and sinkhole fraud. The list is long and longer. How much of a dent can public outreach realistically help make in such widespread crime?

Public outreach is a key component to spurring change, and it is certainly an integral component in our mission to fight fraud. It is one component of a broader strategy to fight fraud and scams of all varieties.

How do you turn around a stubbornly large percentage of consumers who, according to some surveys, think fraud is acceptable social behavior? Especially, playing futurist, what will communications look like in five years with traditional media such as newspapers in decline?

You have to educate consumers on how fraud impacts them — even if it isn't impacting them directly. Fraud is never an acceptable social behavior and we all end up paying more for the coverages and services that are required in a civil society because of it. More and more we are seeing the consumer as the reporter. This new form of reporting from a first person perspective can have a powerful impact on the fraud fighting message. As consumers are able to hear directly from each other, the message can become more powerful.