City of London Police warns students not to let ‘ghost brokers’ take them for a ride

The City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) is raising awareness of insurance fraud amongst students, as universities across the UK take part in National Student Money Week.

City of London police

The unit is reminding young people to remain wary of ‘ghost brokers’, as new figures show that this age group continues to be a target for this type of fraud.

The latest figures, released today, show that 17-29 year olds are most likely to fall victim to fraudsters selling fake car insurance, also known as ‘ghost brokers’, with a number of these victims likely to be students.

From January to December 2021, Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, received 517 reports of ‘ghost broking’, with almost a third (32 per cent) coming from victims aged 17-29 years old. This is an increase on the same period in 2020, when 29 per cent of reports came from this age group.

Figures also indicate that over half (60 per cent) of all reports in 2021 were submitted by men. Of the reports made by 17-29 year olds, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) were from men.

The reported losses to ‘ghost brokers’ for all age groups totalled £1 million in 2021, with the average victim losing around £1,950. 

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Tom Hill, from IFED, said:

“While it is positive to see that the number of reports for ‘ghost broking’ has decreased by a quarter from 2020 to 2021, the increase in young drivers falling victim to this type of fraud is alarming.

“National Student Money Week is a great opportunity for students to pause and take heed of where their money is going – particularly if they have any suspicions around the legitimacy of their insurance policy.

“Costly insurance premiums and money often being stretched unfortunately make students the perfect target for ‘ghost brokers’. These criminals have even easier access to a wide pool of victims than ever before, with many advertising enticing offers on social media.

“Everybody loves a bargain, however it truly does pay to check that you are getting the real deal. A bogus policy could mean facing a fine, points on your licence, your car being seized and crushed, not to mention covering the cost of a new, valid policy.”

The unit has witnessed many young people being exploited by their peers. Last year, officers arrested a number of people in their early twenties who were targeting young drivers through sophisticated social media campaigns.

Two men, aged 21 and 25, were convicted in March 2021 following an IFED investigation, which revealed that they were posing as insurance brokers with inside links to some of the UK’s biggest insurers. They offered cheap deals to youngsters in exchange for ‘administrative’ fees ranging from £50 to £400.

What is ‘ghost broking’?

‘Ghost broking’ is the name given to a tactic used by fraudsters who sell fake car insurance by a number of different methods. Fraudsters mainly target drivers, offering cheaper insurance premiums, usually via social media or by word-of-mouth. These individuals or groups pose as middlemen for well-known insurance companies, claiming they can offer you legitimate car insurance at a significantly cheaper price.

This type of fraud is typically carried out either by forging insurance documents, falsifying your details to bring the price down, or by taking out a genuine policy for you but cancelling it soon after. Whichever method is used, most victims do not realise that they do not have genuine cover until they are stopped by police or try to make a claim.

Why are young people targeted? 

Young people, and especially students, are often vulnerable to approaches from ‘ghost brokers’. 

Money is typically tight for students whilst completing their studies, and, coupled with the high insurance premiums they face, cheap offers are hard to resist. These factors combined, unfortunately, make prime targets for ‘ghost brokers’.

On top of this, some young people may not yet have a complete understanding of the insurance industry and how to insure their car legitimately, due to lack of experience. 

IFED, with support from the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), are therefore encouraging young people 
to be wary of heavily discounted prices on the internet or cheap prices they are offered directly for car insurance, as they may well be offers from ‘ghost brokers’.

How to protect yourself from ‘ghost brokers’

‘Ghost brokers’ often advertise on student websites or money-saving forums, university notice boards and marketplace websites such as Gumtree. They may also try to sell insurance policies to you through adverts in pubs, clubs or bars, newsagents and car repair shops.

Be wary of brokers using only mobile phone or email as a way of contact. Ghost brokers have even been reported using messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook. Fraudsters do not want to be traced after they have taken money from their victims.

If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are not sure about the broker, check on the Financial Conduct Authority or the British Insurance Brokers’ Association website for a list of all authorised insurance brokers. You can also contact the insurance company directly to verify the broker’s details.

You can check to see if a car appears to be insured on the Motor Insurance Database website.

If you think that you have been a victim of a ghost broker, you can report your concerns to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040.

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