We have all been there, you are buying a new smartphone and the sales associate asks if you would like to purchase phone insurance — you know, in case of an accident. You weigh the pricing options for a moment and think about your general clumsiness and decide to get the insurance. If you use one of the major carriers in the U.S. such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and/or Sprint the insurance you buy comes from a company called Asurion Insurance Services, Inc.
So what if they all use the same insurance provider? Here’s what: it appears Asurion’s claim system is very easy to defraud. I received a tip from a reader about their recent experience with Asurion. Below is an excerpt from the email I received.
I just received a letter in the mail from Asurion informing me that I have reached the maximum number of claims allowed in a calendar year. Knowing this was wrong, I called them to confirm what claims they were referring to. It turns out someone put in a claim under my name and cell phone number and had a new IPhone 6.
The supervisor at Asurion was only able to tell me that the person who submitted the claim used a website called Phoneclaim.com. All they needed to do was put in my name and my cell phone number. They were able to use a different address and a different email address to complete the claim.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. So I tried it myself… and it worked. I didn’t actually end up submitting the false claim, but it did work as described in the email I received. I entered my mother’s phone number (I know she has insurance with Verizon), her name as the account person, and then I put in my email and my apartment’s address. Clicked proceed and I was able to complete the steps required. Seriously.
The only real deterrent in the claim system is that you need to sign an affidavit and provide a photo ID but if high school students can get fake IDs, I’d imagine for a fraudster obtaining a fake ID to scan is laughably easy.
The email I received also mentioned that they told other people about their experience and one of their colleagues also had this happen to them (but never even received a letter in the mail).
So that being said, if you have smartphone insurance you should give Asurion a call and/or email. You can find the contact information on the company’s contact page.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t use this information illegally. I am hopeful the company will fix this loophole. I have reached out to them for comment as well and will update this article when/if I hear back. And just for transparency purposes, I’ll include the questions I sent over to them:
– Why can anyone create a claim if they know the person’s phone number and name?
– Follow up to the question above, why can the address provided be different than the billing address as well as the email address be different than the email on file with the wireless carrier?
– How many known fraudulent claims are made every month?
– Are you working to make the system more secure?
Below you can find the statement I received from Asurion regarding mobile insurance and fraud. As you will see, the statement provided by Asurion does not answer my specific questions and it certainly appears that they opted to issue a boiler plate response on the matter. I’ll follow up and update as I know more.
The overwhelming majority of claims filed are legitimate and our goal is to get a replacement device in the hands of our customers overnight. Every claim is evaluated for fraud using hundreds of data points and sophisticated scoring algorithms. When we see indicators of potential fraud, we apply additional controls, such as additional identity validation tools, or route claims through our licensed adjusters. However, if a criminal has obtained a consumer’s personal information, identifying fraud in real-time is difficult; it’s a challenge many companies face.
Our Fraud Prevention and Management organization is dedicated to researching and identifying tactics used by criminals to file fraudulent claims, allowing us to continually improve our systems and processes. We partner with the FBI, Secret Service, Postal Inspector, State District Attorney’s, States’ Department of Insurance, state/local law enforcement and our clients’ fraud management departments to uncover and prosecute individuals and organizations who perpetrate fraud.
If a customer believes they have been a victim of a fraudulent claim, we ask that they contact Asurion immediately. Contact information is available at asurion.com or through their wireless carrier’s website. Contacting Asurion will allow us to protect the customer’s account from future fraudulent claims and prevent any charges related to fraudulent claims. In addition, the information provided by consumers can be used by us and law enforcement to pursue the prosecution of the criminals responsible.