Car insurance scams are all over Instagram and Snapchat, targeting people trying to find cheap car insurance. Often they’re embarrassingly obvious – but if you were desperate to get that price down, would you take the risk?
According to Action Fraud, the most likely target of insurance scams are new drivers, usually under 25. People who are new to the UK are easy targets too, because they aren’t familiar with how car insurance works here and often face high prices.
You know how it is, trying to get insurance for the first time. You’re desperate to get on the road, so anything that promises cheap car insurance is going to sound tempting. Even if it seems a little too good to be true.
Unfortunately, it’s that desperation – and lack of experience with buying car insurance – that scammers rely on. These scammers are often referred to as ghost brokers.
These are all types of ghost broking: a scam where someone pretends to be a legitimate broker for car insurance.
Brokers do still exist but they’ll usually be a shiny brand with a website, reviews and listings on comparison sites. They exist as the pretty face of several underwriters – the people actually insuring you – and provide your customer service and policy management.
In this car insurance scam, the scammer just fakes the whole thing. They pretend to take your details, send you a fake screenshot of your price, take your money and send you fake policy documents.
This means you were never insured, so you’re immediately at risk of being pulled over and convicted of driving without insurance. And your money’s gone.
The scammer will falsify some of your details to make sure they can show you a cheap price that you’ll jump at. They’ll then buy that policy for you so it seems like you’re insured – but you’re not. The details of you as a driver won’t be correct, so the policy isn’t valid.
You’ll have a real insurance policy (although the scammer may use fake details as above to hook you in with a cheap price), but the scammer will cancel the policy to get the full refund back into their bank and either keep taking your monthly payments to them or disappear. Leaving you driving uninsured.
Your biggest tip-off should be your instinct, but that can be hard to listen to when you’re offered car insurance for far less than you should be paying.
So, keep your eyes open for these massive giveaways.
If you’ve been getting quotes for £1,500 and some guy on Facebook is offering you £800, how? Similarly, if most insurers are offering you policies with a black box but this broker can do you a deal without one…something’s up.
Usually, for a young driver, your best prices on a comparison site are going to be with a black box. It’s one of the best ways to get your premium down, because the insurer is offering you a better price if you’re happy for them to know how you drive.
No box and a bizarrely tasty price? Too good to be true.
You see an ad tagged #cheapcarinsurance. It looks like someone’s made it on their phone and the account’s called cHeApInSuRaNz4u.
Number one – the Financial Conduct Authority doesn’t allow insurers to claim that they’re ‘cheap’ in advertising because cheap means something different to everyone.
Number two – car insurance is a very important legal contract required by law for all motorists. Serious stuff. If your little brother could have made the ad, don’t trust it with your money.
Because so much of this insurance fraud happens on social media, the initial chat will probably happen there too. It’ll then often move to WhatsApp, where the scammer feels untraceable.
Keep in mind that car insurance requires a huge paper trail. If your ‘broker’ seems to want to communicate through untraceable methods or random mobile numbers, that’s a huge red flag.
Your friendly Instagram broker asks for an upfront payment for their service, by bank transfer.
Legally, you need to be given the opportunity to see several very important documents before and after you buy car insurance.
The Financial Conduct Authority says that all insurers must show your Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) and their terms and conditions before you buy a policy.After you’ve bought a policy, you’ll always be given a policy wording, a certificate of motor insurance.
If you don’t get these, either by post, email or – in Ticker’s case – app, that’s concerning. Contact the insurer immediately.
1. You see an ad on Instagram.
2. You DM the account and they move you swiftly to WhatsApp OR ask for your mobile and call from a withheld number.
3. They’ll ask you for personal details in the same way a genuine insurance form would.
4. The ghost broker will give you an ‘instant quote’ but probably using fake details they know will get a cheap price – your actual details may not feature at all.
5. They’ll ask if you’d like to go ahead with a ‘setting up fee’, which will usually be a bank transfer to an account, and they’ll then move the money to their own account. This means they can close the dodgy account if they need to.
6. You’ll either get no insurance documents or documents uploaded through SnapChat, WhatsApp or an email account that seems dodgy, like [email protected] Those documents may look totally real – or have little mistakes.
7. You’ll pay your monthly insurance payment that you think is going to the insurer…but it’s actually going to the ghost broker.
The insurer may void the policy without you knowing, because your contact details aren’t on the policy.
The insurer WILL contact you because the broker stupidly used your actual address, but still void the policy.
You’ll try to claim, so the insurer will check all the details on your policy and find it’s fraudulent.
As a victim of this scam, you’re likely to be pulled over because police have used Automatic Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) scanning and found that you’re not insured.
Action Fraud will offer you independent advice, so you can figure out your situation without having to talk to any kind of authority. They’ll advise you on what you should do next.
Most insurers will have a dedicated fraud team whose job it is to help you with this situation. If this IS a scam, you’re the victim here.
With your information, the insurer will be able to tell you if they think the policy has been set up by a ghost broker and talk you through getting it sorted out.
It’s so important that you collect any evidence you have – screenshots, numbers, voicemails and any documents received.
This protects you, as it proves you’re the victim, and it helps the insurer protect you – and protect future customers from being targeted.