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Advisers and insurers are fighting back against underhanded insurance lead-generation tactics. Simoney Kyriakou reports

A couple of weeks into lockdown, insurance professionals started to notice an increase in insurance adverts on social media platforms.

Many of those adverts were downright misleading, according to Dan Thut, operations director for insurance marketing agency Rocketer. He says: “We see Facebook pages popping up regularly with non-compliant ads.

“Often these ads do not last long before they are taken down by Facebook, but during that time we hear reports of significant sums being spent on rogue lead generation, with fraudulent businesses spending about £20,000 per day on Facebook.

”It is not just the proliferation, but also the wording, as Kathryn Knowles, managing director at insurer Cura, comments: “I’ve seen adverts talking about the death of a young adult due to a car accident, which say: ‘There’s a huge chance something like this could happen to you.’“

Another says: ‘UK families are hurrying to get up to £246,753 life cover for only £10 per month.’ The first is bordering on scaremongering. The second is irresponsible to have launched during the pandemic, when many insurers started to become cautious about offering cover.

”Indeed, as the Covid-19 pandemic intensified, so did the frequency of “scaremongering” adverts, using what Roy McLoughlin, associate director for Cavendish Ware, calls “underhand and immoral tactics”.

AIG has been “tracking and tracing” such lead-generating adverts, as part of its #KeepProtectionTidy campaign. When AIG traced the leads, the majority came from far and wide: the Seychelles, China, Panama, the US, Gibraltar and Transylvania.

Speaking at the ProtectX conference in July, Vicky Churcher, intermediary director at AIG, said: “Bad lead-generation adverts do nothing to reflect the true value of what good insurers do. There’s no framework or regulatory control and the effects are far reaching.”

THE CONSEQUENCES

According to Ms Knowles, because there is no control, brokers buy these leads and consumers end up losing out.

She says: “You have brokers buying these leads, without fully checking the credibility and ethics of where they are buying them from.

“A few brokers know exactly where these leads are coming from but are not concerned because they’re not their in-house financial promotions.”

But what is offered is not delivered by the end insurer, in most cases. Ms Churcher says often the promises of money back or premium discounts, which lure people in, are simply “not honoured”.

Therefore, someone ends up with inappropriate insurance, or none at all, because trust has been destroyed.

Also, leads are often recycled, meaning someone responding to an advert could be called relentlessly by many insurers.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) prevents the unauthorised use of a person’s data; but rogue operators only care that the lead buyers are paying for them. This means someone’s data could be shared with many organisations.

“A multimillion-pound GDPR breach is just around the corner if we don’t take action,” says Alain Desmier, managing director of Contact State.

He says brokers or insurers buying these leads are culpable: “The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA)is clear: the lead generator and the lead buyer are both directly liable. If you are buying fraudulent leads, you are at risk.”

POSSIBLE  SOLUTIONS

The nuclear solution would be a blanket ban on all such solicitation, but, as Mr McLoughlin points out, although “responsible and accurate financial advice is the preferred method, we must also acknowledge advisers are of limited numbers, so other modes have their place”.

Good advertising and responsible lead generation can help signpost people towards the right solution for their needs.

But knowing what is good and what is not can be difficult for the lay person, as Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society (PFS), states, which is why the PFS has recently issued a six-point plan to help clients avoid scams (see box).

One action is to report suspicious adverts, says Rocketer’s Mr Thut. He suggests:

  • Screenshot the ad you suspect of being against Facebook rules;
  • Give feedback directly on the ad by clicking the three dots in the top right of the ad (this will further reduce distribution of the ad).Mr Desmier suggests: “Become the lead. Enter your details and record who calls you back. Then ask to speak to the director of compliance and make them aware you intend to complain to the Financial Conduct Authority and the ASA.

“Because of the nature of the complaint, the firm has a duty to make a full reply to you, describing what action they have taken. We have to enforce the rules ourselves.”

To this end, a whitepaper has been published by Contact State and Lifesearch, called Protecting the Protectors. The 11-page document outlines how by working together, legitimate lead generators, intermediaries and insurers can agree a universal system of certifying lead generation that crowds out the fraudulent element of the market.

Such a certificate also represents assurance for the customer that the lead was generated in a compliant manner and contains a rich dataset of information to support that; almost like a receipt.

Mr Desmier says: “Ultimately, every single lead should be accompanied by an independent certificate that records where and when the consumer applied, along with what they saw on that journey.”

But if lead certification is to work, the profession must work together and help stamp out bad practice. As Mr McLoughlin adds: “A collaborative effort is vital.”


SPOT THE WARNING SIGNS

  • Unexpected contact: Traditionally scammers cold call, but contact can also come from email or social media, post, word of mouth or even in person at a seminar or exhibition.
  • Unexpected contact: Traditionally scammers cold call, but contact can also come from email or social media, post, word of mouth or even in person at a seminar or exhibition.
  • Time pressure: They might offer you a bonus or discount if you invest before a set date, or say the opportunity is only available for a short period.
  • Social proof: They may share fake reviews and claim other clients have invested or want in on the deal.
  • Unrealistic returns: Fraudsters often promise tempting returns that sound too good to be true, such as much better interest rates than elsewhere.
  • False authority: Using literature and websites that are hard to distinguish from the real thing, claiming to be regulated, speaking with authority on investment products.
  • Flattery: Building a friendship with you to lull you into a false sense of security.Source: The Personal Finance Society

Source: The Personal Finance Society

Simoney Kyriakou is editor of Financial Adviser

 

Picture Credit | iStock

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