Written evidence submitted by Keoghs LLP (OSB0003)
Keoghs are the UK’s leading specialist in dispute resolution services for the insurance industry, from high-value major claims litigation to higher volume claims management; all under one roof. As a strategic partner to the UK’s largest insurance groups, we combine deep understanding of our clients’ challenges with pioneering technology to deliver innovative solutions to complex problems. Keoghs acts for nine out of the top ten UK general insurers, and with 1700 dedicated staff, is a recognised leader in its field.
Keoghs’ clients in the insurance industry are increasingly concerned about the prevalence of fake adverts on search engines – one of the fastest growing aspects of online fraud. These fraudulent adverts have a significant knock-on effect on claimants and the insurance industry, but the Draft Online Safety Bill makes insufficient provision to tackle the problem.
- The impersonation of search engine ads is fast-becoming one of the most common aspects of online fraud.
- When a scammer impersonates an insurer in the aftermath of a road traffic accident, they are able to put claimants in costly credit hire vehicles and provide a range of other services at a hugely-inflated cost, with major consequences for consumers’ insurance premiums.
- Tackling the issue is difficult, complicated and long-winded. Insurers must currently negotiate with search engines to remove the offending ads on an individual basis, but in the process of doing so dozens of others spring up to take its place.
- Provision should therefore be made within the Online Safety Bill to protect consumers, helping them to recognise fake ads or mandating search engines to apply greater due diligence to the credentials of advertisers on its platforms.
- Keoghs believe that an amendment must be brought forward within the Bill to achieve this.
- When an accident takes place, the first thing that many of those involved do is an online search to find their insurer’s contact details.
- Scammers have taken to impersonating the adverts that are commonly seen on search engines, providing fake telephone numbers and impersonating a “claims department” should anyone call them.
- This “claims department” then signs callers up to a financial agreement and puts them into a credit hire vehicle (a vastly more expensive version of a courtesy car) without the claimant’s knowledge. Often, services such as vehicle recovery and storage are added, all at an inflated cost.
- The claimant may never discover they’ve been scammed, and the additional costs could have a major impact on their insurance premiums once the bill from the scammer makes its way to their insurance company.
- Scammers have also utilised search engine optimisation, to make sure that their fake adds appear above those of genuine businesses.
- At the current time, tackling the problem is extremely difficult given the sheer volume of fake ads.
- Insurers currently need to negotiate with search engine companies to remove the offending ads, but such is the simplicity with which they can be set up that dozens more fake ads can appear during this negotiation.
- As a result, dealing with the ads on an individual basis is unsustainable, and action must be taken at a more overarching level to help protect consumers and reduce the cases of fraud.
- The solution is twofold: helping consumers to recognise fake ads and understand the dynamics of search engine optimisation, and mandating search engine companies to perform more due diligence of their advertising customers.
Online Safety Bill
- The Online Safety Bill presents a key opportunity for the Government to take action to tackle the issue of online scams, and mandate search engine companies to vet their advertising customers more thoroughly.
- Keoghs are working with politicians, civil servants and consumer organisations to raise this issue more broadly and facilitate a solution, and are calling for an amendment to be included within the Draft Online Safety Bill that includes provision to stop online fraud.
- Enacting these changes will:
- Protect consumers from fraudulent ads that will ultimately reap havoc with their insurance premiums
- Free up resource within the insurance industry and at search engines, a significant amount of which is currently spent locating and negotiating the removal of individual fraudulent ads
- Prevent costly and time-consuming court litigation of those cases that make it to court, particularly relevant at a time when court capacity is hugely under strain