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May 2024

Fear comes in strange disguises

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Mar 2022

Sometimes it takes an extreme event to make us see the connection between two seemingly unrelated developments in our industry.
In this instance, I am thinking specifically about the link between cyber crime and the rapidly ageing societies that are becoming an increasing feature of the Asia-Pacific region.
Cyber risk is emerging as one of the biggest ‘new’ threats to all of us and so cyber insurance can only grow in significance in the immediate future. While the threat to corporates from cyber crime has been a focus for some time now, the issue of offering cover for ‘personal cyber’ is still in its infancy.
One thing we know for sure is that cyber criminals target the weakest link in any chain – and the segment of society that understands the cyber world least is, undoubtedly, the elderly.
For smooth-talking telephone scammers and SMS and email senders, the elderly are the least tech savvy, the most likely to be bamboozled by jargon and more prone to trust what they presume to be the ‘voice of authority’.
As the world of insurance increasingly adopts digital means of marketing and selling insurance, processing claims and making the hand-held devices that we all carry around with us a central part of their business development, we are also making it harder for the elderly to remain customers of insurers.
While customers at the younger end of the spectrum are perfectly comfortable simultaneously making payments, playing games, chatting to friends and scrolling through social media apps while sitting on the bus or train, the very thought of fingerprint or facial-recognition technology on the ‘phone is an alien concept for many elderly people.
After a spate of high-profile telephone banking scams over the New Year period in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia made the headlines, it became apparent that the insurance sector was going to have to lift its game – both in terms of customer education and in terms of policy wordings.
Singapore’s monetary authority has indicated that within a few months it will have issued guidance on how the victims of cyber scams should be treated by the institutions with which they transact – in other words, establishing who is liable.
Early indications suggest that this will be based on how much time and effort the victims put in to making sure that they were being cautious and acting properly – and how promptly the financial services organisation dealt with the customer complaint after it was lodged – as well as how quickly the victim was able to submit the complaint.
In plain language, this means that having to spend 30 minutes on hold while trying to lodge a complaint because the automated call centre was ‘busy’ will put responsibility firmly on the insurer or bank: The benefits of technology must cut two ways.
Making it possible for people to live longer throughout Asia Pacific should be seen as a benefit – but if all we are doing is increasing the number of people who can be scammed out of their life savings by bad people in far flung jurisdictions, then we are at risk of doing more harm than good.
The role of insurers in all of this is clear. Greater cyber security education for elderly customers coupled with increased security measure for those most at risk.
Paul McNamara
Editorial director
Asia Insurance Review
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