Every vehicle owner is seeking lower auto insurance premiums and scammers know this, said the Ontario Provincial Police.
To kick off March as Fraud Prevention Month, members of the OPP anti-rackets branch are reminding vehicle owners that if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Fraudsters have been offering low automobile insurance premiums in newspaper and online ads, and at trade shows often impersonating legitimate, reputable vehicle insurance brokers. Their various “offers” guarantee saving you hundreds of dollars in premiums. They may tell you that the lower rates are for a limited time only and that you need to act now.
After seeing pledges of “low rates” and “everyone is accepted,” victims have sent premium payments to these phoney vendors through Western Union or Money Gram. A bogus insurance slip is then mailed or emailed for home or office printing and for placement in your vehicle.
Victims don't realize they have no insurance coverage until they are involved in a collision or are stopped by police.
In 2012, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) — of which the OPP is a partner — received 7,394 Canadian complaints of service scams including auto insurance fraud.
The 2,736 people who were identified as victims lost a total of just over $2.1 million.
If you are about to purchase auto insurance, you can protect yourself by verifying legitimate vendors through two reputable sources:
-Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) - All insurance brokers must be licensed in Ontario with RIBO. Call 1-800-265-3097 or visit www.ribo.com.
-Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) - In Ontario, automobile insurance is regulated by FSCO, an agency of the Government of Ontario's Ministry of Finance. In order to legally provide insurance, the insurance companies must be registered with FSCO. Visit www.fsco.gov.on.ca.
If you suspect you have purchased phoney auto insurance — or think you or someone you know has been a victim of any type of fraud, contact your local police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).