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RIBO Continues Investigation

Ontario consumers are warned that if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Back in March, an Ontario auto insurance scam was uncovered after the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) got calls from victimized consumers.

“We started receiving the odd call a few months ago, and now it’s become apparent that this looks similar to a scheme we saw in the past [where the criminals were never caught],” says Tim Goff, manager of complaints and investigations at RIBO.

According to Goff, the perpetrators move from city to city and advertise their alleged services–some names used have been Arthur & Son, Interprovincial, Smith & Son and Addison, and more recently, Rollings & Powell Insurance–in local newspapers.

When a consumer calls the 1-800 number, they’re offered low auto insurance rates and told to send a “down payment” ranging from $500 to $1,000 via Western Union. Then, when the consumer doesn’t receive paperwork about their purchase and they call the phone number again, it’s out of service.

Goff says they don’t know who the perpetrators are or where they’re situated, but do know they use disposable cellphones and stay in an area for about two weeks at a time.

At press time, RIBO had received 15 consumer complaints over a six-week period. However, the true extent of damage is still unknown and investigations are ongoing.

He advises anyone who has been victimized or has any information about the scheme to call 416-365-1900.

“This is insurance fraud at its worst and is a poor reflection on the entire industry. If a broker, consumer, or insurer has any knowledge about any of this, I urge them to gather all the information they can and report it to RIBO, the local police and PhoneBusters [which deals with telephone and money-wire fraud],” says Goff.

Before purchasing insurance from any agent or broker, consumers can visit either the RIBO or the Financial Services Commission of Ontario website [www.ribo.com, www.fsco.gov.on.ca] and confirm the company is registered and licensed to sell insurance.

Fraudulent activity has been on the rise. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the total reported dollar loss in 2009 was over $10.2 million, up from $9.9 million in 2008.

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

Transcontinental Media G.P.