As South Africans, we are aware that scams are in action around us at a higher level than we would care to have. At UIB, as professional insurance brokers, we would like to bring the latest car theft scam to our client’s attention. In the war against scam artists, awareness of these swindles is the greatest tool we have against those looking to take advantage of us.

There is a disturbing current trend that we have been made aware of recently, and it’s a doozy.  Vehicle car owners are being called by individuals stating that they are from a dealership the day after they have had their vehicle serviced. The caller then claims that there is something faulty with the vehicle and will arrange to collect the vehicle and return it to the workshop for attention. The vehicle is then collected with its keys and is never seen again!

Simple as that, as if the effects of COVID on the service industry aren’t bad enough!  And here we are being taken for a ride when we think someone is being forward thinking and helpful. Definitely a case where service with a smile is not what you are looking for.

It is never the intention of anyone to be taken for a ride, but it does happen, and it is important to understand how this may potentially influence your insurance policy. Theft by false pretenses is an exclusion in most insurance policies and can leave a policyholder completely unprotected.

As if car services weren’t stressful enough already

Why is this an exclusion?

Theft by False pretenses is a general phrase used to cover a wide range of scenarios, all very similar to the one above. It is characterized by:

  • A seemingly innocent request e.g., “May I wash your car”
  • A trusting victim accepting the help e.g., “Sure, there are my keys”
  • Resulting in a financial loss e.g. “My car has been stolen”

This has been seen before with email scams requesting personal information such as banking passwords, ID numbers and various other requests.

Why then, is it an exclusion in insurance policies if it results in theft? The victim in all these situations still willingly provides access to the intruder, by giving the password, pin or key. It is no different from lending a burglar the key to your house and returning to find that all your household contents have grown legs and walked out the door.

The cause of the claim then is uninsured, as the claimant has not acted with due care to protect their possessions and therefore this type of incident will not be covered by the insurance policy. Many claims my face the reality of the claim being rejected. This can be avoided though through asking yourself the right questions.

So, how then do we mitigate the risk to you, the insured?

Vigilance and awareness are key in all of the above-mentioned scenarios. When receiving a call from anyone claiming to be a representative from a company, remember to:.

  • Take down their details
  • Call the company back to confirm the situation. Try and use a different number to what the caller has just given you, even if you have to search for number,
  • Confirm that the person in fact works for the company
  • Do not accept that they will collect the item, but rather take the item to the company concerned.

Call the company back to confirm the situation.

Take Notes | Insurance | Pretoria

Always take down the details of someone claiming to represent a company

Companies such a motor dealership, panel beaters, vehicle maintenance companies, equipment repairs should have insurance for their business under which the most important section for their protection is insurance cover for property which will be under their custody and control when working on those items. So, if you have delivered your vehicle into the hands of a trusted company and your vehicle, equipment or property is damaged or stolen whilst they are under their custody and control, there may be a legitimate claim.

We don’t enjoy having to be consistently skeptical of all engagements that we have on a day-to-day basis. Policyholders do have the responsibility within their insurance contracts to always act with due care and to secure and safeguard their belongings.

Use the same vigilance that we apply to our banking passwords, pins and any suspicious emails – do not simply hand over the keys to your home, belongings or vehicle without doing an investigation first. On that note, if you feel an email is too good than it probably isn’t true.

Be careful and remain aware.