'Ghosts' offering fake car insurance deals are haunting customers
Aviva Insurance revealed recently that up to 400 of its motor insurance policies had been sold by "ghosts".
Not a remnant from Halloween, but fraudsters. These ghosts pose as brokers to sell cheap insurance policies to people mainly via Facebook and other social media channels. The policies then turn out to be fake.
Not only has the punter lost their cash, they then have to buy another policy legitimately before they can drive.
It's a big problem and those being targeted are lured into believing that a better deal exists.
The scams are sophisticated, often replicating the insurance company's logo on a specially set-up Facebook page, so customers are unsuspecting.
Here's how it works: a real policy is purchased from a legitimate company like Aviva using a cloned or fake credit card.
The unsuspecting victim pays a full year's premium up front to get a discount (usually half of what the actual premium would be), but it's demanded via Western Union or money transfer to the fraudulent broker.
Naturally, the fake credit card is spotted by the insurer and the policy cancelled. But it's too late for the motorist when they get the letter telling them they've been scammed. They then have to fork out for a proper policy.
The ghost broker isn't the only way drivers seeking insurance get caught. Another trick is for the fraudster to alter their victim's information on the proposal form (ignoring penalty points, or cutting the car's value, for instance), so that a cheaper quote is forthcoming. The fee is paid upfront again and the customer isn't covered because "material facts" were wrong.
Other scams aimed at drivers include:
Fake no-claims bonus certs may get you a cheaper insurance premium, especially if you have made claims in the last five years.
However, if you are challenged by the insurer or gardai, or you are involved in an accident, the scam will be spotted.
These NCB certs change hands on the black market for around €300 but are a false economy. Most buyers are fully aware they're buying a fake document but may not realise it's a criminal offence.
Second-hand or reconditioned tyres can seem like a bargain but you may not be getting value for money, says AA Ireland.
For example, a second-hand tyre costing €30 has tread thickness of 3.6mm, effectively 2mm of usable tread before it reaches the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm. This works outs at €15 per millimetre of usable tread.
On the other hand, a new tyre costing €80 has 8mm of tread, or 6.4mm of usable tread before it reaches the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm. This works out at €12.50 per millimetre of usable tread, and therefore offers better value.
It is an offence to drive with defective or worn tyres and you risk a fine of €80 and up to four penalty points upon conviction.
Always check for an E-Mark on the tyre which is necessary to pass the NCT. Check that there is a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm on the tyre.
Anything less is illegal for use on a public road. Ask the seller to confirm that the tyre you are buying is the correct size and design.
HOW TO SPOT A SCAM
l New, inexperienced drivers and foreign nationals are most at risk, according to insurance industry experts. Terms and conditions can be complex to understand.
l Legitimate brokers don't meet in social media forums, car parks or demand money transfers online or private messaging offline.
l There is no one offering 50pc off the price of motor insurance so if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Most real discounts hover around 5-10pc and there are plenty of ways you can get the price down, such as a higher excess, third-party cover, paying annually instead of monthly or bundling home and car insurance.
l You can check a broker is legitimate as they must be registered by the Central Bank of Ireland. They'll be noted on the broker register (registers.centralbank.ie) or you can call Brokers Ireland on (01) 6613067.
l Keep an eye on your bank accounts - if a strange payment appears from a legitimate source like an insurance company, it's possible that your credit card was cloned. Don't assume you must have a policy somewhere - check.
l If money is being demanded from you for a product you do not want, call gardai.