Some claims management companies have been taking out ads on search engines, like Google, in a bid to get people to call them up and claim through them when they’ve had a car accident – without necessarily realising it’s not their insurer – and rack up hefty costs.
What are Google ads and how are these companies using them?
Companies can create an ad on Google to promote their business and services. It appears at the top or bottom of the Google search results page, clearly identified by the ‘ad’ logo beside the website’s URL. The ad will come up based on how relevant it is to what someone searched for, how much the company bid to appear there and a few other factors too 1.
Let’s say you’ve just been in an accident. In all the confusion and shock, you may be in a hurry to find your insurer’s contact details. If you haven’t got them saved, it’s likely that you’ll head straight online to look for their number.
If you searched something like ‘Aviva car insurance number’, one of these claims management companies could pay a marketing company to place a Google ad to appear at the top of the results page.
You might think you’re speaking to your insurer
As soon as you click some of these ads, they automatically start dialling – so you won’t be able to check who you’re speaking to first. Although they may not say they’re your insurer, they may be vague about who they really are – calling themselves a ‘claims department’.
Someone who'd clicked on one of these ads, expecting to speak to her insurer, told BBC's Rip Off Britain that the fallout of who they ended up speaking to turned out to be far more upsetting than the accident itself 2.
The Times reported that these companies use advertising to lure drivers into making claims with companies that look like real insurers, but aren’t 3.
It could cost you even though you’re probably covered already
Some claims management companies need you to use potentially pricey claims services – things you’re probably already covered for through your own insurer – to make their money.
You’ll incur these charges almost straight away – so even if you realise you’re not speaking to your insurer, your bill’s already started to rack up. If you decide you want to claim through your own insurer, the claims management company is likely to charge you for any costs up to that point.
It’s true that if it’s found the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurer will need to pay the claims company’s costs. But if it’s found that you were at fault in any way, you’ll have to pay a big portion of their bill, which could run into the thousands.
It’s a big concern in the insurance world. In 2019, the Insurance Fraud Bureau got over 300 reports of claims firms that were appearing to misrepresent genuine insurers on online search result ads 4. But we’re doing all we can to protect you from it.
We’re on the lookout
We don’t want you to think you’re making a claim with us when you’re actually speaking to a completely different company.
That’s why we’re always on the lookout for any Google ads from other companies which could mislead you into thinking you’re calling us. And if you think you’ve fallen victim to a company posing as us, you can report it.
You can rest assured that we’ll investigate and if we find that these ads are misleading customers, we’ll do everything we can to take them down.
There are also some simple things you can do to make sure you don’t accidentally end up using one of these companies too.
Keep your car insurance details handy
By keeping your car insurer’s details saved in your phone or in your car, you know you’ll have the right information to hand.
It’s also a good idea to keep a note of your policy number too – you can find this on your policy documents.
Here are some other things you can do to make sure you’re speaking to your insurer, instead of anyone else:
- Be cautious with ads and make sure you know where they’re taking you before you click on them.
- Ask the person on the phone which company they’re from – your real insurer will have no reason not to tell you so be wary if they don’t give you a straight answer.
- If you don’t have your insurer’s number saved, go directly to their website or check any letters or emails from them to find their contact details.