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Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

Accident Support Services: A three-decade crusade to combating auto insurance crime

For the past 30 years, Canadian P&C insurers, brokers and law enforcement have trusted Accident Support Services International (ASSI) to help them effectively manage minor vehicle collisions.

Today, ASSI is just as well known for their efforts in curbing Canada’s growing auto insurance fraud problem – often linked to organized crime that’s fueling the country’s auto theft and fraud crisis.

Whether it’s fraudsters staging collisions or committing identity fraud, car owners falsely adding passengers or faking injuries, dishonest auto shops adding creative damage to up their repair costs, or tow operators fighting over referral kick-backs and turfs – there is no denying that defrauding insurance companies has become a major challenge in the industry.

“At the end of the day, this all drives up premiums for insurance customers,” says Steve Sanderson, founder and President of ASSI.

That is why ASSI’s services have evolved to benefit consumers, insurers, brokers, law enforcement and industry partners like Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Équité Association — whether it’s through streamlining reporting and claims at ASSI’s collision reporting centres located inside police stations, or using ASSI’s data to action solutions to traffic accidents and crack down on fraudulent claims.

INTEGRAL TO COMBATING AUTO CRIME

ASSI emerged three decades ago in response to police budget cuts, a rising tide of insurance fraud and its often sinister ties to organized crime.

Sanderson recalls the journey from the organization’s inception to its current pivotal role in managing minor collision reporting and thwarting auto insurance fraud.

“When we started in Ontario thirty years ago, we tackled a range of fraudulent activity, from fabricated injuries or passengers, to exaggerated repair claims by dishonest auto body shops and the exploitation of safety features like airbags and even baby car seats for financial gain,” Sanderson says.” By implementing innovative verification methods, like photographing steering wheels and backseats, ASSI significantly reduced such fraud.”

They soon noticed a deeper entanglement of organized crime within the auto insurance industry, particularly through the referral process. “The nexus of criminal elements in some tow operators, body shops, and legal or rehabilitation entities inflated insurance claims by thousands, deepening the crisis,” he explains.

Despite many of these challenges still persisting today, ASSI’s impact over the decades has been truly felt, offering industry robust tools to streamline claims and combat fraud effectively.

Through ASSI’s Collision Reporting and Occurrence Management System (CROMS), partnerships with Équité, IBC and law enforcement have been crucial in uncovering and addressing fraud effectively. So much so, that ASSI’s buildings in Toronto were targeted by arson attacks in 2020.

“We knew we were making a difference, and we will continue to do so,” says Sanderson.

The system also alerts insurers to any inconsistencies, and ASSI’s “Damage Reported to Police” sticker is making a significant difference in curbing creative damage after the fact.

Working with the majority auto insurers enables ASSI to identify uninsured drivers. “This not only helps to bring these individuals into compliance but also plays a crucial role in maintaining premium stability for insured drivers,” Sanderson notes.

The statistics provided by ASSI empower both law enforcement and insurers to identify and address high-risk areas and patterns, enhancing road safety and policy formulation. What’s more, ASSI is alleviating law enforcement’s burden, allowing police to focus on more pressing crimes.

ASSI’s Customer Service Support Package has been instrumental in preserving the integrity of claims processes, thereby preventing fraudulent claims from escalating costs for all policyholders.

HELPING INDUSTRY DELIVER ITS PROMISE

At the same time, ASSI’s customer-centric approach helps to reinforce the industry’s commitment to being there for insureds in times of need.

“We not only help citizens with their obligation to report the collision, but we are the first notice of loss for our insurance partners,” Sanderson says.

ASSI services thousands of consumers a year at its 44 Collision Reporting Centres in Ontario and Alberta, and will launch in Charlottetown, PEI, this summer.

Their digital ecosystem captures a comprehensive suite of photographs for each vehicle, including 360-degree exterior shots, interior views, and odometer readings.

“Electronic reporting submissions happen live to insurers, enabling them to expedite the claims process, which not only saves them time and money, but reinforces the value of the insurance premium to the policyholder – and helps brokers retain clients,” Sanderson says.

Ultimately, it’s the consumer who benefits most, Sanderson adds, through the impacts of reduced auto insurance crimes on premiums, and peace of mind navigating a claim.

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