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Real or fake! Bogus auto-insurance documents flood the market as scam widens

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 2:00 AM

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

If, God forbid, you were to meet in an accident and the other party offers to bear the full cost of repair without reference to the police or an insurer, you could be dealing with a motorist with fake insurance documents.

Scammers across the island are offering fake motor vehicle insurance documents for as little as $13,000, and hundreds of motorists are taking up the offer.

A Sunday Gleaner probe has found areas where, for between $13,000 and $16,000, motorists can get authentic-looking comprehensive insurance documents for any make or model motor vehicle for one year.

"This document can pass any police, but don't meet in a no accident, as you can't claim," said one man, who offered to insure a motor car owned by a member of our news team recently. "You can use it if police stop you, but mi a beg you no meet in a no accident," reiterated the man, as he boasted of the number of motorists he has "helped" over the years.

The police are well aware of
this fraudulent scheme, and between July last year and the end of
January, they have discovered 43 cases of fraudulent insurance cover
notes, resulting in 18 convictions, while 25 persons are still before
the court.

Last month, the Major Organised Crime and
Anti-corruption Agency also reported that it has made a significant dent
in a criminal network involved in the production of fraudulent motor
vehicle insurance documents with the arrest of two persons, including
one believed to be the mastermind.

A large quantity of
driver's licence applications, driver's licences, motor vehicle titles,
fitness certificates and cover notes belonging to insurance companies,
along with items used in the production of motor vehicle insurance
documents, were seized during that operation.

YET TO
FIND SOURCE

According to head of the Police Traffic
Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, while investigators are
yet to determine the source of all the fraudulent documents, they have
arrested motorists who have all claimed they obtained the documents from
legitimate insurance companies.

"Various insurance
companies like BCIC and Advantage General are some of the insurance
companies that these motorists have purported to have got documents
from," said Allen.

"We then make contact with these
insurance companies to verify the authenticity of the documents and this
is where we are finding that this is not so, because when they check
their system, the numbers and things that are given, they don't have
them in their system," added Allen, as he declared that the cops have
intensified attempts to find the source of these
documents.

Clamping down on the practice cannot happen
soon enough for the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), which
estimates that more than 100,000 uninsured vehicles are on the nation's
streets.

"It may very well be that the police are
trying extremely hard and I have no reason to doubt that, but at the end
of the day, the problem has not abated," IAJ president, Karen
Bhoorasingh, told The Sunday
Gleaner
.

"We have about 300,000 vehicles
insured and there is an estimate that there are more than 400,000
vehicles operative on the road," added Bhoorasingh, as she noted that
the issue of persons bypassing legitimate insurance companies and
purchasing fraudulent documents is a long-standing
one.

"I suppose there might be the view that the
problem is increasing. It is not a new problem, where persons are not
purchasing insurance from legitimate insurance companies, but are
striving to purchase fraudulent insurance where they just buy a
certificate or a cover note. So they are just purchasing documentation
to 'prove' to the police that they are
insured."

Bhoorasingh, who is also president of
Guardian General Insurance Jamaica Limited, argued that the companies
have taken several steps to address the problem, but persons continue to
find ways to beat the system.

"We have, over the
years, implemented various measures to combat this type of fraud. We
have used paper that has various security features, so that the police
will be able to identify when the cover is genuine or not. But as
technology increases and improves, the ability of the fraudsters to
seemingly accurately reproduce the documentation increases," said
Bhoorasingh.

The IAJ president charged that persons in
the public-transportation sector are among the main clients of those
selling fraudulent insurance documents.

"Lots of these
uninsured vehicles are part of the public-transportation sector and it
means that there are persons out there who are not protected. So when an
accident occurs, they (passengers) have no compensation to get," noted
Bhoorasingh.

"So when these persons who are driving
with fraudulent insurance meet in accidents and … persons who are
injured or have their properties damaged go to the various insurance
companies to claim, … it is then discovered that the insurance is not in
place, and consequently, those persons are not entitled to
compensation."

The traffic police head agreed that
public-transport operators are heavily involved in the
racket.

"What I can confirm is that there are persons
out there, especially some of those in the public-transportation sector,
who are using those fraudulent insurance, and so our efforts out there
are beyond just compliance with the RTA (Road Traffic Act), but also now
to be looking out for the authenticity of the
documents.

"They are moving members of the public, and
so they ought to ensure that their documents are relevant to the type
of role they are playing. Some of the very buses out there that have red
plates, the passengers feel that everything is legitimate, only to be
in an accident and there is nothing to get," noted
Allen.

"So the owners of these vehicles are the
persons that we are really focusing our attention on because if you own
the vehicle, you really ought to be able to account in full for
everything about the vehicle," added
Allen.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com