Are you afraid of ghosts? The recent increase in ghost broking being driven by the current financial climate is making it easier for fraudsters
Fraud in the motor arena can take many forms but for most, ghost broking is not a new concept. However, the recent increase in such practices, mainly driven by the current financial climate which is providing greater opportunities for the fraudsters, is concerning.
So what is ghost broking?
In essence, ghost broking is where an intermediary ("ghost broker") will offer to arrange car insurance at a cheaper price for the victim. The ghost broker will then do one of the following:
- submit false details to the insurer that do not reflect the true position of the victim to secure a cheaper insurance policy from the insurer; or
- provide the victim with forged insurance documents, usually including the Certificate of Insurance and Insurance Schedule; or
- secure a genuine insurance policy based on the victim's details but cancel it shortly thereafter and walk away with the refunded premium.
We have also seen instances of the ghost broker using stolen bank cards to pay for numerous policies to sell on.
Ghost brokers can use a number of different methods to entice the victim to use them to place their insurance policy. Social media platforms are certainly one of the preferred methods, with the ghost broker offering low premiums. The vulnerable, for example, young drivers and students who are inexperienced in the insurance market and have been quoted significantly higher premiums, are quite often tempted by the reduced premiums.
In any of the above scenarios, the victim is often left both out of pocket financially having paid for the policy and also uninsured which could result in 6 points on their licence and a fine of £300.00. The consequences of being uninsured are far reaching, particularly if the uninsured vehicle causes a road traffic accident. Unfortunately, the victim of the fraud is often not aware of their uninsured position until there is either a need to claim on the policy or they are stopped by the Police.
An increase in the number of ghost broking strikes was witnessed at around 10% during the Covid pandemic. During 2021 it was reported that ghost broking loses amounted to in excess of £786,000 according to figures from the UK's national reporting centre for fraud.
So what can be done?
Vigilance is key when organising motor insurance. For those seeking insurance cover, avoid those ads on social media and the cold callers or, at the very least, if responding to such an advert or call, check that the business is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, BIBA and (for motor insurance) that the insurer is a member of the Motor Insurers' Bureau. It is also advisable to check the Motor Insurance Database to ensure that genuine insurance is in place before taking to the roads.
The majority of insurers already have in place very technical and sophisticated checks built into their systems to detect suspicious activities and raise a fraud alert.
In the current financial crisis individuals are looking at ways to make savings, particularly on car insurance. However, a salutary warning - If it appears as if it is too good to be true – then it is ! Do your checks before signing up to the motor policy.
It will also be interesting to see if the Online Safety Bill which is progressing through the House of Lords will have an impact on the social media scouring that currently happens by the fraudsters. Any legislation to restrict online scam adverts is an absolute bonus in the fight against insurance fraud.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.