FraudBlog: The Journey From Consumer to Coalitioner

Posted by Kendra Smith

BY Joseph Matos | August 12, 2022

On March 21, my understanding of the insurance world was turned upside down when I was invited by Executive Director Matthew Smith to join the Coalition staff as head of communications.

Yes, I knew about certain kinds of insurance fraud. But my goodness, I didn’t realize how many kinds of scams existed — or how much they could damage innocent victims. What’s interesting is my initial untrusting consumer mindset. I envisioned insurance companies as behaving like a cold-hearted, lumbering farming machine scrapping up as much money as possible from customers. It’s quite clear that there are hard-working human beings who care, and are quietly working behind the scenes to stop insurance crimes because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

It was an eye-opener. I sat in Coalition meetings, hanging on every word of Coalition insurer members to see if my consumer mindset would kick in and say, “There it is! I knew it, exactly as I thought all along!” But the opposite has occurred. I feel like I want to provide all of my skillsets to assist our members in educating America’s people, courts and government entities about the amazing anti-fraud work they perform daily, and help iron out at least some of the negative thinking that many average consumers reflexively apply to insurers.

My mission as a Coalition fraud fighter is to help advance our message to everyone in America that most insurers genuinely care about combating insurance fraud and protecting their policyholders from exploitive scammers who drive up everyone’s premiums. Sure, some insurers aren’t as consumer-focused but they’re only a small minority. The American people should understand that insurance companies aren’t out to get them, government officials should feel as though the Coalition can either partner and assist on certain issues and bills or we can also be a fierce watchdog whose bite has been felt on certain matters throughout the years. Either way our mission… “The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud unites the nation — empowering consumers to fight back … helping defeat this crime … working with leaders to fight back.” moves forward and whether we are loved or not by some, we can all agree that what keeps us united is the respect that has been earned by the Coalition internally and externally over these many years.  

Currently besides leading the Coalition’s communications/marketing/branding efforts, along with the team, I’m developing a plan to help change the current landscape to a more-accurate view of how our members combat fraud across the U.S. But let’s be real — we aren’t going to win everyone over. But we can improve the overall acceptance of how insurers improve the lives of millions of policyholders through genuinely committed efforts to thwart exploitive fraudsters. 

The Coalition’s Midyear meeting was what I fondly call my “baptism by fire” in June. It was a great way to introduce me to the humanity of members who are leading anti-fraud efforts within their Coalition member organizations. Having developed events in diverse industries, I will say that for a small-sized staff team, the Coalition put on a big show supporting premier guest speakers such as North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey. He told how he refused lucrative bribes to ease up regulatory pressure from billionaire businessman Greg E. Lindberg case. Causey restored my faith in humanity, especially in the insurance sector.

Another factor that helped open my eyes was the amazingly high cost of insurance fraud each year. The Coalition has just completed research on the annual dollar cost of fraud. We reviewed the findings at the meeting, and will unveil the full study — with new dollar loss estimates — later this year. I can only imagine how much more money fraudsters would steal if fraud fighters weren’t guarding the gates so carefully.  

Let’s also consider how many events and meetings anti-fraud world puts on throughout the year, around the U.S. Fraud fighters regularly gather to learn, collaborate and find better ways to stop fraudsters — not because they have to, but because they want to. I would’ve never imagined this to be possible. It’s easy for outsiders to view insurers solely as competitors trying to outdo each other for our policyholders’ premium dollar, or to see which organization can develop the cleverest concept to hook people on their products (insert eye roll here). That assumption has been replaced with reality that can only have become clear by witnessing first-hand the collaboration among competitors and allies at the mid-year meeting. 

My head swirls with how complex insurance is — and the limitless attempts to steal through fraud. As I grow in this new industry, my eyebrows raise and I start formulating ways we can continue to elevate our members while educating America about the great progress we’re collectively achieving in combating scams. My journey at the Coalition goes hand in hand with my passion for justice. I’m pleased to be part of this crime-fighting family. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen how unfair is the popular negative perception of insurers versus what they’re doing to stop fraudsters. Just as much, those efforts for justice go beyond the walls of each organization. Their efforts roll into the court system with fraud convictions, and into the halls of government as we help pass stronger anti-fraud laws.

The Executive Committee appointed a sub-committee to lead and ensure that planning for the Coalition’s future is ongoing. The Executive Committee will meet again later this year to continue its work in mapping what lies ahead for our Coalition. 

The strength and resources the Coalition marshals to assist our member organizations are like a beacon of hope. It’s truly impressive from my viewpoint. Every organization is stronger for coming together, and each stands taller by sharing their individual expertise throughout the year via the many platforms the Coalition offers. An amplified vision for giving our members a stronger presence nationally is underway as a Coalition project. It’s my goal to make sure the spotlight is bright; the mic is turned up and the red carpet is pristine. 

Next year the Coalition celebrates 30 years of standing by its members. We certainly look forward to a spectacular year filled with history-making memories and new anti-fraud successes. 

I’m very excited about working with the team to welcome our members to the Annual Meeting, Dec 8 in historic Arlington V.A. at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. It’s conveniently located just minutes from D.C. This meeting is a must-see event that brings together the finest minds and decision-makers to network and develop effective new directions for the fraud fight. Registration opens on Monday, September 19th.

Will take this opportunity to ask our fraud fighters to take 10 mins and complete the survey for the Data Ethics Study that will be closing in a few days, we have NOT heard from MANY of you and this would be a great time to show how we can all come together to ensure we do things the right way.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Worker’s Compensation Webinar and get access to the long-awaited report, slots are filling up fast so please secure yours …

Thank you for welcoming me into your world. I certainly look forward to work hard to fight fraud with my current communications tools, alongside our committed members who are working so hard on the front lines. 

About the author: Joseph Matos is the Communications Director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. He can be reached at [email protected].