The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) and Aviva have called to attention a concerning trend of paid-ad spoofing scams targeting insurance consumers has emerged, prompting calls for increased vigilance.
These scams involve deceptive firms paying for search engine ads that impersonate reputable insurers. Unknowing individuals, often in the process of making a claim, may contact these third parties via the ads, mistakenly believing they are communicating with their insurance provider. This can lead to entrapment in legal agreements with unfamiliar firms, accruing significant costs.
The IFB is actively investigating several firms suspected of involvement in these scams. To combat this escalating issue, the IFB and Aviva have initiated a joint campaign, which features an educational video on YouTube, to raise public awareness about these scams and provide guidance on avoiding them.
The mechanics of paid-ad spoofing scams involve tricking individuals into contacting these deceptive firms through misleading ads when they search for their insurer online to make a claim. Victims are lured into providing personal details under the guise of receiving support services and initiating a claim, leading to unsolicited agreements with third parties.
While all insurance customers are susceptible, those who have recently been in a road collision are particularly at risk. In the aftermath of an accident, they may not be fully alert or aware and can be easily misled into believing their comprehensive car insurance covers all services, unknowingly accruing thousands in fees.
The responsibility for these fees depends on the circumstances. If the other driver is at fault, the deceptive firm may claim against their insurer. However, if the other driver is not at fault, the misled individual is burdened with covering all costs, which can escalate into tens of thousands of pounds and result in relentless pressure from third-party firms.
IFB director Ursula Jallow emphasised the serious nature and complexity of paid-ad spoofing scams. With millions searching for insurance services daily, it only takes a small fraction of individuals falling for these scams to enable fraudulent firms to profit considerably.
“There’s a minefield of claims hi-jackers out there and consumers must be vigilant. We’re collaborating closely with Aviva and the wider industry to tackle the issue. Anyone with concerns of paid-ad spoofing claims scams must report it to our CheatLine,” Jallow said.
Aviva, along with other major insurers, has also identified an increase in their customers being targeted by these scams. Approximately a dozen firms have been discovered misrepresenting themselves as Aviva's claims management team. The victims often include those in vulnerable positions, such as the elderly or individuals distressed following an accident.
These scams put victims in a difficult situation when they realize they are not receiving the expected services under their insurance policy, leading to harassment by third parties for unsolicited fees. In a notable case, a claims firm demanded over £50,000 in costs from an individual.
Aviva head of claims counter fraud Pete Ward expressed concern about the misleading of consumers, particularly those seeking their insurer’s claims details post-accident. He noted that such scams exacerbate the stress and financial burden of the victims.
“Aviva has been working with the IFB, law enforcement and the wider insurance industry, to make consumers aware of the online scammers and protect them from these unscrupulous actors. We hope this will prevent others from being targeted by paid-ad spoofing,” Ward said.
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