Drivers are being warned about being ripped off by "ghost brokers", who sell fake insurance polices at cheap prices.
Ghost brokers target young drivers and groups which pay high premiums for cover. They sell cover in person, on university campuses, and via online classified ads. (See Young Drivers' Insurance for how to cut your costs on a legitimate policy.)
But drivers who buy policies from ghost brokers will find themselves left uninsured. This could lead to their vehicle being seized, or they'd be left liable for the costs of any damage and injuries if they were in an accident. Drivers can also be prosecuted for having no insurance, which would likely result in a fine and points on your driving licence.
Insurance firms, police and charity Crimestoppers have teamed up to launch a campaign explaining the dangers of ghost brokers to drivers.
Detective Inspector Dominic Parkin, deputy head of the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, says: "Ghost broking is a nationwide problem which is now being met by a national law enforcement response.
"But making arrests and securing convictions is one piece of the puzzle – raising public awareness to prevent the fraudsters from duping young drivers is equally as important."
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Don't be spooked by ghost brokers
Ghost brokers typically advertise cheap, no-quibble insurance on social websites or forums where particular groups are targeted. They typically include hard-up students, drivers with convictions, drivers newly arrived from overseas or ethnic groups for whom English isn't the first language.
Well-organised scams may even run their own websites.
The AA says ghost brokers' tactics include guarantees to undercut any policy by a significant percentage, offering fixed-price policies through a reputable company, and using mobile telephone contact numbers. They are often reluctant to provide contact details for the insurance company with which the business is being placed.
To avoid ghost brokers, buy your motor cover from a price comparison website, a reputable insurance broker or go direct to an insurer. Don't be tempted to buy cover from someone selling it from the side of the road.
Also beware of deals that are too good to be true. If someone approaches you, especially in person, offering rock-bottom rates, then they're probably too good to be true. Use a price comparison site to get a good idea of the premiums you're likely to pay.
The insurance industry and Crimestoppers have published a video outlining how to steer clear of ghost brokers.
I think I'm a victim. What should I do?
If you suspect you're a ghost broking victim, check on the Motor Insurance Database website to see if your car is registered as being insured. If it is, then check again from time to time because once an insurer realises the policy has been fraudulently obtained, then it'll be cancelled.
You can also check with the company whose name is on the insurance certificate if your policy has been fraudulently obtained.
If you are a victim, report it to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Getting the best real deals
There are many ways to get a good deal on your car insurance without being duped.
- Step 1: Combine comparison sites for the cheapest quotes. Not all comparison sites are equal, they look at different insurers, so combine as many as you've time for, such as MoneySupermarket*, Gocompare*, Google* and Compare The Market*. Then check the big sites they miss, including Aviva* and Direct Line*.
- Step 2: Know the tricks of the trade. Choosing the right policy type can slash costs.
- Add a second driver. Putting a more experienced driver with a good history on your policy, even if they won't often drive your car, can slice costs down enormously.
- 2+ cars in the home? Comparisons only search one car, so miss multi-discounts, which can be big savers. So manually check Admiral MultiCar*, plus Churchill*, Direct Line* and Privilege*.
- Don't pimp your ride. Tempted by tinted windows? Your car may look better but your bank balance won't. Changes, barring for security, hike the cost. If you've done it, inform your insurer of any modifications or it can invalidate policies.
- Don't assume third party's cheapest. Picking fully comprehensive makes some insurers consider you a lower risk. Check both.
- Step 3: Will a black box cut your price? If you can't get a cheap standard price, consider getting a telematics 'black box' tracker fitted to your car so you pay based on your performance behind the wheel.
* Using these links helps the site stay free to use, as they're ‘affiliated links’ which invisibly take you usually via affiliate linkage or commercial money sites, which then pay this site. You shouldn’t notice any difference, the links don't impact the product at all and the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by the revenue. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the best product, it is still recommended and still included. The following links, Admiral MultiCar, Aviva, Churchill, Compare the Market, Direct Line, Go Compare, Google, MoneySupermarket and Privilege are identical unaffiliated links provided for the sake of transparency. Click on the following link for more details on how this site's financed.