Many people will have seen the film Ghostbusters, but for car drivers seeking a good insurance policy it is not Slimer or the Stay Puft Marshmallow man they need to fear.
Ghost brokers are criminals who perform scams on drivers. They work by offering intermediary deals that are too good to be true, based on applications they have already made with insurance companies using false information. Having paid the first instalment themselves with a stolen credit card, they get the rest of the cash from the unwitting customer – who might not even discover they have not been insured until they have to make a claim.
As this is a nightmare for the motorists directly affected – as well as anyone who collides with them as they are dealing with an uninsured driver – it is important that motorists take the time to check the policies they are signing up to are all fair and above board.
Apart from anything else, the fines for driving without insurance have been raised from £100 to £300 and while an AA survey of drivers concluded this was still not enough, that is not an amount anybody wants to have to shell out as a penalty for taking out what they thought was a legitimate deal.
Thankfully, there has been a bit of a clampdown on such crooks. In April this year, Kent couple Elina Jaksone and Gagik Kyriacos Manucharyan were jailed for a combined total of more than ten years for various offences relating to insurance fraud, tax fraud and tax credit fraud over the non-declaration of nearly a million pounds of income they raked in from their ghost broking activities, which were used to fund a lavish lifestyle of holidays, expensive cars and a £365,000 home.
While that pair will be having porridge for breakfast for some time to come, however, others are still out there conning motorists. In June this year, spokesperson for insurer LV= Vanessa Chance told the Independent there are more than 60 criminal outfits targeting motorists in this way. Their favourite targets are vulnerable communities like people with a limited grasp of English, or young drivers desperate for low premiums – not to mention little experience of handling motor insurance.
Ms Chance added: “Drivers should be wary of anyone promising ridiculous discounts as it’s almost certainly going to be too good to be true.”
Therefore, common sense has a big part to play in spotting scams. Anyone who has doubts about their policy can ask their provider to provide full details of it, along with the repayment plan. Checking policy documents is a good way of ensuring the correct details are in place. False information is both fraudulent and can invalidate a policy, so anyone who spots this on their policy and thinks they may have been tricked should contact their insurer immediately.
If the broker can then be traced, it may be they will be providing a few more details – to the police. Whether they are apprehended or not, drivers who check carefully what they are signing up to will be the wise ones who do not get caught out.