The fraudulent practice is often used to target more vulnerable groups such as younger drivers or foreign nationals who don't speak fluent English. With the issue becoming more widespread, consumers should be wary when taking out any insurance cover.
We all know how much preparation is required in advance of taking out an insurance policy.
Between making sure you’re not overpaying to having the right level of cover in place, the research process can take some time.
However, the latest insurance scam is preying on consumer’s desire to find the best deal.
If you haven’t heard of the term ‘ghost broking’ by now, well, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
What is a ghost broker?
Put simply, a ghost broker is an unregulated intermediary who poses as an insurance broker to sell invalid insurance policies to customers.
Ghost brokers frequently target those looking to take out car insurance but not always.
How does a ghost broker scam work?
The scam works whereby a ghost broker purchases a policy from a legitimate insurance company using false information and then doctors it before selling it on to a consumer.
The scammer will then take payment and cancel the insurance policy, thus leaving the ‘insured’ party unknowingly without cover.
Other scammers simply choose to replicate the look and feel of a legitimate insurance policy without having an actual policy in place, all the while taking an applicant’s money and then scarpering.
Regardless of whether an actual insurance policy ever existed, the scammed consumer will often be misled by the fake documentation that’s designed to imitate reputable insurance companies.
Ghost broking is an insidious scam and incredibly harmful for consumers as many people are left without cover unknowingly and only find out at the worst possible moment, when they actually go to make a claim.
How widespread is ghost broking?
Ghost broking came to public attention in 2021, when a Garda investigation charged three people with over €6 million in fraudulent motor insurance policies.
Since then, insurers have warned consumers about the dangers posed by these opportunistic fraudsters.
A recent study by LexisNexis Risk Solutions highlighted the prevalence of the practice today and how many people still don't know about it:
- 54% of 17–34-year-olds have been targeted and tempted by an advert for fake insurance on social media
- More than 1 in 10 (16%) of the youngest people surveyed, aged 17-24, has bought insurance through one of these adverts
- 92% of 17–34-year-olds expect insurance providers to check they are who they say they are when applying for insurance
- Only 24% of the people surveyed actually know what a ghost broker is
Who is at risk?
While all consumers are potentially at risk by this fraudulent practice, ghost brokers tend to target those seeking car insurance, in particular higher-risk drivers, with the lure of cheaper premiums.
The practice is also used to target both younger and older drivers who are seen to be vulnerable through either lack of knowledge or who may not be attuned to such online scams.
Unlike various types of motor insurance fraud where drivers make false claims, with ghost broking it’s the driver or policyholder who is the victim.
If you’re a driver looking for car insurance, check out our guide on 12 things to consider when taking out car insurance for more helpful tips.
How to know if you’re dealing with a ghost broker
The practices employed by these criminals are often advertised on social media and different online fora.
They also commonly operate within the confines of certain social media pages or groups and may use a personal email address and mobile phone number as they have no registered business address or customer service landline.
All these should be telltale signs of fraud but if you do find yourself getting to a more advanced stage make sure to never hand over any money, in particular cash, as ghost brokers will often look for large cash deposits upfront.
As one can imagine, this has potentially devastating consequences for vulnerable families and individuals who may need to rely on a particular policy should the worst happen.
Considering just how prevalent the practice is, it’s clear that the problem of ghost broking is fairly endemic in the Irish market and something that all consumers should be aware of, and not only that but how to keep themselves safe.
How to find a legitimate insurance broker
When looking for a legitimate broker, there are a few key things to note.
- To operate as a financial services provider in Ireland, companies need to be registered with the Central Bank of Ireland.
- If you’re considering taking out any type of insurance policy you can check whether a broker is legitimate by consulting the online register from the Central Bank of Ireland.
- Needless to say, if a purported firm or company says they can get you a really good deal it’s more often than not too good to be true and one check online can prove that.
- Consumers can also consult insurancebroker.ie from Brokers Ireland for more information. The site has a handy search tool providing details of local member insurance brokers.
For more information on ghost broking in general and how to safeguard yourself and others you can find out more with this public advice from Insurance Ireland.
bonkers.ie is a regulated insurance broker!
Meanwhile, if you’re considering taking out insurance cover make sure to check out bonkers.ie for all your insurance needs.
We’re a fully licensed insurance broker and are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. So if you’re looking for life, health, serious illness, or mortgage protection cover you can apply online on bonkers.ie today, safe in the knowledge you're fully protected and will get a great service.
Learn more about insurance
We have a number of helpful articles and guides to give you peace of mind when considering insurance.
- If you are stung by a ghost broker and find yourself uninsured, check out our explainer on driving without insurance in Ireland.
- To examine why the cost of your home and car insurance has risen, read our article here.
- Paying too much for your car insurance? Learn how to cut down on your costs.
You can check and compare insurance plans and offers on our website, potentially saving you hundreds a year.