What is a ghost broker?
Ghost brokers are professional fraudsters selling discounted insurance policies to unsuspecting motorists. Fraudulent motor insurance policies are sold in two ways:
- Genuine policies are bought from legitimate insurance companies using false information before being sold on to customers.
- Fake policy documents bearing the logo of legitimate insurance companies are created and sold on to customers.
- These fraudsters typically advertise their services online or within local communities, claiming to be genuine brokers.
- Regrettably, foreign nationals are frequently targeted by ghost brokers.
- The obtain details from the customer and then amend these details (age, driving experience, value of car, penalty points etc) to mislead the insurer and secure a policy at a vastly reduced cost.
- In some cases, ghost brokers are charging a fee of up to €300 for securing these policies to unsuspecting motorists.
What are the consequences of buying a fraudulent policy for the innocent customer?
- Their insurance is invalid, and they are driving illegally.
- They would be unable to make a claim.
- They may be forced to pay costs which could run to thousands of euro if, for example, the customer in question was at fault for a crash in which a third party was injured.
- The customer will have to pay for another, genuine policy.
Why is this kind of fraud on the rise?
According to the latest figures from the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime centre, reports of ghost broking increased by 10% in 2020, indicating that these fraudsters are still able to operate in the current circumstances.
Police there claim that some ‘ghost brokers’ are exploiting the pandemic – having seen a case of someone offering discounts to NHS workers on fraudulent insurance policies.
The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) has recently advised that many criminals view the pandemic as an opportunity to make money online, typically targeting vulnerable or young people.
In fact, the Insurance Fraud Bureau in the UK predicts that the current economic climate could push this up further, with data showing a 17 per cent increase after the 2008 financial crisis. Over €30bn was lost worldwide last year through cyber-enabled fraud, €20m of that in Ireland.
What customer advice can we give?
- Before buying a policy through a broker or intermediary, always make sure this person or company is registered; members of the public can check the regulatory status of the firm or individual they are dealing on the Central Bank of Ireland website in the Registers section.
- Beware of buying policies through non-traditional sources, including social media accounts, WhatsApp chats or pop-up offices.
- Also, ghost brokers will often include only include a mobile number, a location and a first name by way of contact details. Legitimate brokers will provide full contact details and a fixed address.
- If, once you call such a number, the ‘broker’ immediately offers you an insurance quote (some will do this via text), then you should know something is not right.
- If you believe you are getting a deal that is too good to be true, then it probably is!
- Be wary of brokers asking for payment in cash up front; most reputable brokers will accept credit card payments and will have clear terms and conditions.
How can we work together to tackle ghost broker fraud?
- Raise awareness for the practice amongst consumers and advise that they check the online register on the Central Bank of Ireland’s website to ensure that their broker is authorised to provide the service it is offering.
- If you believe you have discovered a ghost broker or you have found a suspicious advertisement, you should immediately contact your local Garda Station to report the suspected fraudster or advertisement.
- You can also report or query an unauthorised firm by emailing the Central Bank of Ireland’s regulation division: email@example.com