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Protect yourself from insurance scams

It can’t just be us noticing that scams seem to be getting more regular and worse. Phone calls, texts, emails from the supposed likes of Amazon, the Post Office, and various delivery companies are one thing but now we hear of more terrible scams.

This week Trading Standards got in touch with us to tell us about another scam – this time to do with your insurance. Believe it or not, yesterday I received two phone calls, both scams. The first asked me about online trading and the second one pretending to be an insurance broker. Interestingly, the second call was timed perfectly as I had been talking to a previous insurance company. I could have been taken in because of what was being said. Luckily, I have wised up to these phone calls and I ended it.

Ghost brokers

I have never heard of ghost brokers and according to Neighbourhood Alert, only 15% of us have. 

Basically, a ghost broker is someone who is committing fraud by trying to sell fake or invalid insurance policies. As a victim of this crime, you will be sold fake documents for a policy that in reality does not exist. You could also be sold a genuine policy that was set up using false details to lower the price of the premium. These are scams.

There’s a reason why it’s cheap

When we hear the word cheap, especially at the moment, we are often taken in by the hope of saving a few vital pennies. Unfortunately, these people or groups are posing as representatives for well-known insurance companies. They get often make contact through social media or even word-of-mouth, offering supposedly legitimate car insurance at a really cheap price.

In reality, these so-called brokers will either:

  • forge insurance documents
  • falsify your details to bring the price down
  • or they take out a genuine policy but cancel it soon after

How you find out it’s a scam

Scarily, you probably won’t even realise what the scammer has done, that is until you are involved in an accident and try to claim on the policy.

The problem is made worse because these people are targeting the more vulnerable members of the community. This includes young people looking for cheaper deals and people from non-English speaking communities. However, they may not be the only ones who get caught out.

Shocking stats

Last year Action Fraud received ghost broking complaints that amounted to:

  • 694 ghost broking reports
  • 29% came from victims aged 17-29
  • Victims lost a total of £113,500
  • Average loss was £559
  • Men submitted 58% of the reports in 2020

The risks

The worst part is that these ghost-brokers policies are either invalid, non-existent or fraudulent. In plain speak this means you are technically not insured. If stopped or you have an accident your risks are:

  • £300 fixed penalty notice
  • Six points on your driving licence
  • Your vehicle being seized and crushed

Protect yourself

Don’t let these scammers take advantage. Follow the steps set out by Neighbourhood Alert to spot any risks:

  • Social Media – ‘Ghost brokers’ often advertise and communicate via social media, online forums and messaging apps. If a broker is only using a mobile phone or email as a way of contact, this can be a sign of this type of crime. Fraudsters do not want to be traced after they have taken money from their victims.
  • Print – They may also try to sell insurance policies through print adverts in pubs, clubs or bars, newsagents
  • Too Good to Be True – 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 also check to see if a car appears to be insured on the Motor Insurance Database website.

What to do if you are a victim

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

You can also contact the Insurance Fraud Bureau via its confidential Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 or on the IFB website.

Consumers be aware when selling goods through social media

By Claire Kendall, Trading Standards Milton Keynes

Trading Standards in Milton Keynes is aware of a new scam that is affecting consumers and a drop shipper in the local area.

The consumers offer items for sale through eBay, Facebook etc. They receive an offer to buy from an individual, who goes by a different name for each transaction. The consumer then receives a fake email from the scammer, appearing to come from the selling platform. It states that the scammer has transferred the money. The scammer then gives an address for the delivery of the goods. The seller posts the items (normally cameras, iPhones, and the like) to the address. The seller never receives the payment and the selling platforms do not get involved. This is because the scammer does not carry out the transaction through their system. This means the consumer loses their goods and has no way of recovering the value of the item. Consumers are reporting that they are losing £100s with each fraudulent transaction.

The occupier of the address given by the scammer is another victim in this scenario, in this case, a business offering logistics services. They receive the goods and consolidate a package for their client before sending the goods on to the scammer. Of course, the drop-shipper is unaware of any issues. They have now received significant negative feedback on public websites declaring that they are scammers. The reality is that the real scammer has abused their service.

How to spot the scam

This type of scam can be difficult to spot. These are a couple of things you can look out for:

  • A drop shipper will need to have a reference number on the package to know who to send it on to. Look for suite or apartment numbers with a lot of digits.
  • Before sending your goods, visit Google Maps, look up the address and have a look at street view. Are you looking at a residential property or an industrial unit/warehouse etc? Industrial areas may not be a good address for you to contact the buyer of your items.

If you’ve been a victim

If you have been the victim of a scam please call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or visit Citizen’s Advice

How to avoid costly damaged roofs

Claire Kendall, Trading Standards

Local Trading Standards Services regularly receive complaints about various unsatisfactory home improvement work. A growing area of concern is with roof cleaning services, including jet washing.

Experts and roof tile manufacturers have provided Trading Standards officers with advice to highlight some of the misconceptions associated with these services.

Lifespan

Different roof covering materials have different lifespans, but it is generally accepted that the majority of UK manufactured tiles are fit for purpose for at least 60 years.

You may see lichens, mould and similar growths on your roof, and although you might not like the look of them, they are not generally detrimental to the lifespan of your roof tiles.

If the growths are interfering with the free flow of rainwater from your roof, you may need to take some action by cleaning with a biocide, wire brush or a low pressure wash.

Pressure washing

Roofing experts warn that roof tiles should not be subjected to high-pressure washing or jet washing for many reasons. These include:

  • it will remove the granular surface finish and potentially damage the tile. This process followed by a surface treatment application will invalidate any tile manufacturer’s guarantee.
  • interlocking roof tiles are not designed to be walked on. Foot traffic can cause these interlocks to break, opening the roof up to leaks.
  • inappropriate pressure washing can potentially force water up between the tiles and roofing felt into the roof space. Bedded mortar and flashings can also be blasted off using this method, which could lead to a repair bill for you.

Charges

Cold callers are charging consumers around Milton Keynes up to £800 for this service. If the roof is damaged by the process, the final cost may be a lot more.

Mess

It is also a very messy business and residents have made aware Trading Standards aware of neighbourhood issues. This includes damage to caused to cars and moss on the neighbours driveways etc.

Make sure you

  • Say not to cold calling traders. Reputable traders do not generally have time for cold calling.
  • Speak to a legitimate company about any concerns relating to your roof.
  • Check out their address on their website, then view it on Google maps to see where they are based. If their post code is the middle of a supermarket car park, you might want to try another trader!
  • Check their membership of trader approval schemes, there are lots of these schemes so check to see what help you might get if something goes wrong, or use the Trading Standards Approved local scheme www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk.

If you are aware of one of these companies operating in your area please call 03454 040506 to report them.