Crash victims stung by dodgy firms posing as real insurers

Dodgy claim management firms are posing as legitimate insurance companies and hijacking claims by drivers, leaving motorists significantly out of pocket.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) has urged drivers who need to make an insurance claim to be on the lookout for so-called click-to-call adverts which see unsuspecting motorists charged fees for unnecessary “support services”.

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The independent body received more than 300 reports of firms posing as insurers and conning victims in 2019 but warns that figure is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.

It says the scams, which target drivers using the internet to search for their insurer’s contact details, cause distress, charges unnecessary fees and in some cases leaves motorists facing demands to repay thousands of pounds.

How the scam works

The scam works when someone involved in a collision uses an online search engine to find their insurer’s contact details. Misleading ‘click-to-call’ ad results - paid for by claims management firms - will show up and appear to represent the insurer, tricking the victim into clicking the ad link and believing they are calling their insurance provider.

The call actually goes through to a claims management firm or a marketing company which collect the victim’s personal details before offering to help provide ‘support’, ranging from repairing or replacing the damaged vehicle to processing a claim against any other driver involved.

The IFB says that these firms then work with a network of unscrupulous companies to provide costly support services, racking up thousands of pounds of fees which the victims believe are covered by their insurance policy.

If the other driver in a claim is at fault they or their insurer end up footing the bill for most of the costs of these unsolicited services. But if it is the claimant’s fault, they are left to pick up the bill for these services, which in many cases would have been covered by their genuine insurer. According to the IFB, these fees can run into thousands of pounds and can result in threatening calls for the affected Individual.

If a claimant is at fault, they can end facing demands for thousands of pounds for unnecessary 'support services' (Photo: Shutterstock)

Stephen Dalton, head of intelligence and investigations at the IFB, said: “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”.

The IFB is working with City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) to tackle click-to-call ads. The head of IFED, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, commented: “We know that fraudsters often try and target people when they’re at their most vulnerable, and ‘click-to-call’ insurer ads is a prime example of this.

“Immediately after someone is involved in a collision, it’s likely they’ll be anxious and panicked, and this is when they’re most susceptible. While we understand it’s natural to have these feelings, we’d urge people to try and remain calm and focused in this situation, being especially cautious if they use a search engine to search for their insurer’s details.”

How to avoid the 'click-to-call' scammers

The IFB and IFED offer the following advice for staying safe from click-to-call scams.

Take extra caution when using a search engine to make insurance-related enquiries. Before clicking on ad results, always check the website address to help ensure it’s legitimate before using any contact details.Carry a note of your insurer’s claims contact number in your car or on your phone, that way you know you’re speaking to the right people. The number can usually be found on your policy documentationIf you think you have seen or had experience of a claims management company wrongly representing an insurer, it’s important to make the affected insurer aware so they can take steps to address the issue.Suspicions of insurance fraud can then be reported to the IFB via its confidential Cheatlineservice on 0800 422 0421 or at www.insurancefraudbureau.org.