The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), alongside the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), are warning the public to take caution when looking up their insurer’s details after a collision. Increasing evidence shows dodgy claims management firms are using search engine ad results to misrepresent insurers, hi-jack claims for referrals fees and potentially leave road traffic victims out of pocket.
How ‘click-to-call’ insurer search engine ad scams work
The scam works when someone is involved in a collision and uses an online search engine, such as Google, to find their insurer’s contact details. Misleading ‘click-to-call’ ad results – paid for by dodgy claims management firms – will show up and appear to represent the insurer, tricking the victim into tapping the ad and believing they are calling their insurance provider.
On the other end of the phone is often a representative from a claims management firm or marketing company, asking for the victim’s personal details to help provide them with ‘support’, ranging from collecting, fixing and replacing their damaged vehicle to processing a claim against the other driver in the collision. This information is passed onto a claims management firm that works in tandem with a network of unscrupulous companies to provide costly support services.
All the while, victims signing up for these services believe their fully-comprehensive car insurance policy covers everything and because they have no clue they’re not dealing with their insurer, thousands of pounds worth of fees are being racked up.
Who pays these fees can vary. If the other driver is at fault of the collision, the claims firm will claim against their insurer to cover most of the costs of its unsolicited ‘services’. In these instances, the affected individual may not realise they have been scammed.
You Can Be Responsible For the Costs – Don’t Get Scammed
However, if the other driver is not at fault of the collision, then the onus is placed on the individual who has been misdirected into contacting a claims management company for support, to pay for services that otherwise would be covered by their insurer. These fees can run into thousands of pounds and can result in non-stop threatening calls for the affected individual.
In 2019 the IFB, which works alongside IFED and the insurance industry to investigate networks of insurance fraud, received over 300 reports of dodgy claims that were appearing to misrepresent genuine insurers on online search result ads.
Those who made the original search for their insurer on a computer and then called the visible phone number on the ad, are often the only ones in a position to trace the advert. Because of this, most claims firms looking to scam prefer to only place ads on mobile devices.
Investigations have also uncovered the calculated psychological tactics used by fraudulent claims companies over the phone, who make extra efforts to reassure and befriend their recovering road traffic victims while collecting their personal information for financial gain.
Suspicions of insurance fraud can then be reported to the IFB via its confidential Cheatline service (powered by Crimestoppers) on 0800 422 0421 or at www.insurancefraudbureau.org.
Industry comments from the IFB, IFED and ABI
“The risk of this dishonest activity means that vulnerable members of the public can be left liable for significant credit hire charges (and other ancillary costs) if the claim is challenged. Unfortunately, we have seen examples where victims have been left seriously out of pocket as a result. We’re determined to work alongside the insurance industry, regulators and Trading Standards partners to stop these firms and the impact of their activities on innocent policyholders”.
-Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, Head of IFED.
“People need to be on their guard against rogue claims firms, who encourage inflated, frivolous or false claims, and are always looking for new scams. These end up being paid for by all honest insurance customers through their premiums. People should only use the contact details of the insurer from their policy documents, confirm who they are talking to, and not assume that all online sites are genuine.”
– Mark Allen, Manager of Fraud and Financial Crime at the ABI.