Most things in the world of insurance fraud don’t have cool names.
They’re called things like “Commercial Liability Fraud”, and “Induced Road Traffic Accidents”.
The exception to the rule is ghost broking.
Here’s what it is, how it works, and how you can steer well clear of it.
What ghost broking is
Ghost broking is a type of insurance scam. The scammer (or “ghost broker”) sells someone a car insurance policy that either doesn’t exist or isn’t valid.
Ghost brokers usually get their customers through social media.
It tends to affect people who don’t know how insurance works in the UK. That means younger drivers (especially students), who tend to get much higher insurance premiums than more experienced drivers, and people who have moved from another country and don’t speak much English.
Ghost brokers usually advertise on money saving forums and student websites.
Forgery, falsification and cancellation: how ghost broking works
Ghost broking usually works in one of three ways.
This means the ghost broker uses real insurance documents, but they change them to make it look like they belong to someone else.
They might use their own, valid insurance documents, but change the dates and names so it looks like it’s yours. But really, there’s no policy in your name at all.
This is when they do actually buy an insurance policy on your behalf, but they use fake data to make it much cheaper.
For example, let’s say you’re a young driver. You only passed your test a few months ago. If you bought an insurance policy, you might pay a much higher premium than someone who’s been driving for 20 years.
But a ghost broker would lie about your age to make it cheaper. They might also lie about your postcode, the car you drive, and even your job title, all to bring down the cost – but without telling you.
So even though there’s technically a policy in place, it’s a fraudulent one. And the person whose name the policy is in has no idea.
When the insurer finds out it’s a fake car insurance policy, they’ll either cancel or void the insurance.
Insurance companies don’t look kindly on voided policies. If the fake policy you bought from the ghost broker is voided, you could have trouble getting insurance in the future.
Sometimes ghost brokers buy a legitimate policy using your real details, send you all the documents, and then cancel the policy and pocket the refund. That leaves you driving around uninsured.
For the victim, this is usually the worst kind of fake insurance scam, because it means that technically you’re driving a car without any insurance policy at all.
So not only do you lose the money you paid for the fake insurance policy, you then have to buy a valid insurance.
You’ll also face the standard punishment for driving without insurance, which is:
- 6 points on your licence
And this can have even further knock-on effects, because having 6 points on your licence can make your insurance even more expensive in the future.
In these cases, the law isn’t particularly generous to victims of ghost broking. There’s no distinction between a victim of insurance fraud and someone deliberately breaking insurance laws.
How to make sure your insurance is valid
The first – and most important thing – is to avoid buying insurance from dodgy sources.
That means don’t get your insurance from:
- People you come across on social media or money saving forums
- Businesses that aren’t regulated
How to make sure your insurer is regulated
Before you buy any insurance, check that the insurer is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). These are the folks responsible for making sure that customers get a fair deal from financial services companies.
Regulated companies have to follow the FCA’s code of conduct, which means they’re less likely to treat you unfairly. And if you think they have, you can make an official complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.
To check if an insurer’s regulated, you need to get their FCA number. Most regulated companies will display their FCA number fairly prominently. We put ours at the bottom of every page on our website.
Once you’ve got this number, you can go to the FCA’s register, type in the number, and see if that company’s registered. You can also search for the company name in the FCA’s register.
If it isn’t, steer clear.
You should also check the Motor Insurance Database (MID). If you have a valid insurance policy, it will show up here. But it can take a little while to update, so don’t panic if you buy a policy and it doesn’t show up in the MID in seconds.
Reporting ghost broking
The first thing to do is tell the police. Give them as much detail as possible about the person who sold you the insurance.
You should also tell Action Fraud. They pass on information about fraud to insurers, which helps the likes of us stop it happening to other people in future.