Ghost broking: what it is and how to avoid it

Understanding ghost broking

Police forces across England and Wales have been warning drivers to be wary of fake car insurers offering too-good-to-be-true deals that turn out to be fraudulent.

City of London Police, who were instrumental in a national police campaign last year warning drivers to be on their guard, call it ghost broking – and say victims lose an average of £769. The force warns that having fake car insurance, even bought in good faith, still means you're uninsured and breaking the law.

Ghost brokers may give you forged documents, alter your details, use cloned credit cards or buy a genuine policy but cancel it, pocketing the difference and leaving you without cover.

The force reports that drivers in their teens and twenties are most likely to be targeted, for obvious reasons – as less experienced drivers they may face higher premiums, and they may also be less familiar with car insurance in general.

Insurers Smart Driver Club reported a 14 per cent rise in invalid policies over three months last year, and said they were finding 30 invalid policies for every 1,000 issued.

What happens if I'm not properly insured?

It’s your legal obligation to ensure your van is insured. If you're found to be driving without insurance, you can be fined £300 and given six points on your licence. If the case goes to court, you could get an unlimited fine and a driving ban. Plus, you can be liable for any costs arising from an accident that's your fault, such as damage to the other car. Not only that, but the police can seize and even destroy your car.

How can I spot a fake insurer?

Fake insurers are known to advertise on social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram; on money-saving and price comparison websites; in newspapers and magazines; on sites like Gumtree; and on university noticeboards. They may also cold call you, rely on word-of-mouth, or try to sell insurance in pubs, clubs, bars, newsagents or car repair shops.

Be wary of anyone who offers only a mobile number or an email for you to contact them, or who communicates through messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger – they do this because they don't want to be traced.

How can I make sure an insurer is genuine?

A genuine insurer will be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association also has a list of authorised brokers. Visit register.fca.org.uk or biba.org.uk.

You can check that you’re insured on the motor insurance database, which is a record of all the insured vehicles in the UK, at ownvehicle.askmid.com.

If you think the insurer the broker says your policy is with is authorised, but the policy itself is fake, you can contact the insurer directly.

At used van dealers Vanwise Group, we have a wide range of used vans for sale of a variety of makes and models. To book a test drive, call us at our Kent dealership on 01622 233151 or our Essex dealership on 01279 216163. Ask us about our vans on finance and van contract hire offers too.