'Fake' car insurance investigation leads to 27 arrests

Image caption Young drivers can be targeted by "ghost brokers", leaving them uninsured

Twenty-seven people have been arrested during raids across England by police tackling fake car insurance scams.

Police officers conducted raids in Leicestershire, London, Manchester, Thames Valley and the West Midlands early on Wednesday.

They have been investigating a practice known as ghost broking, which can leave young drivers uninsured.

Insurance companies say those responsible target drivers on a budget and looking for a cheap deal.

Fake cover warning

Police say ghost brokers operate through websites, social media or small ads by offering cheap insurance.

They target young motorists who face high premiums and communities where English is not the first language and where there is a lack of understanding about the way the insurance industry works.

In some cases they issue completely fictitious policies.

In other cases they apply to genuine insurance companies for cover on the customer's behalf, but alter personal details such as age and address which would otherwise push up the cost.

Anyone with such a policy could end up with their vehicle seized by police and face fines.

In November 2011, the BBC revealed that 20,000 motorists could be driving around uninsured after buying fraudulent or fake cover.

The City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) has been investigating the issue, culminating in operations involving 160 officers on Wednesday.

"The consequences for innocent motorists who fall victims to ghost brokers can be dire, so it is absolutely vital that drivers shopping for car insurance online, or through other means, question what they are being offered to ensure they get a real deal," said Det Ch Insp Dave Wood, head of IFED.

"Driver diligence, coupled with enforcement action being taken by IFED and supported by local forces, is the best way to confront this threat now and in the future."

The operations led to 11 arrests in the West Midlands, nine in London, three in Manchester, three in Thames Valley, and one in Leicestershire.

Of these, 25 were arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation, one was arrested on suspicion of burglary, and one was arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

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