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ASK TONY: Two insurance firms let crooks set up car cover policies in my name

Swinton and Hastings Direct both opened car insurance policies in my name of which I had no knowledge and, more importantly, opened parallel credit agreements.

In both cases my name and address were used, but other details, i.e. date of birth and bank account, were false.

I had no knowledge of the vehicles. The second-named drivers were both Romanian – suggesting fraud.

I appreciate the insurers are victims too, but they have failed to respond to my correspondence and, in particular, confirm that any default notice against my name has been cancelled.

It is also concerning that they are providing insurance without checking the vehicle is registered at the given address or sending documents to that address. Everything was done online.

They also entered into credit agreements without an original signature or checking for a valid date of birth or bank account.

B. J., Bedford.

Ghost riders: One reader was shocked to discover both Swinton and Hastings Direct had opened up car insurance policies in their name

These are serious allegations and I share your concerns. I took your complaints to both firms.

Swinton admits the policy was set up online fraudulently using your name and address. It has been cancelled and treated as never having been in force.

The insurer does not share information with external credit reference agencies, so there will be no blot on your record.

However, it admits you ‘should have received an update . . . when you made contact in January’.

It apologises and has paid you a £200 goodwill gesture.

Hastings Direct admits a third party opened an insurance policy using your address. It also says it was too slow to act, but confirms the policy has been cancelled and your address has been removed.

It says when somebody opens a policy at an address, it accepts the details ‘on utmost good faith and we would not check this information unless it is selected for our new business checks’.

In other words, policies are checked randomly, but not all are checked. It confirms no details have been passed to third parties or credit reference agencies.

The wider issue here is that, in this digital age, insurers are targeted by ‘ghost broking’.

This is where an individual or group posing as an broker purchases a policy from a legitimate insurance firm using false information.

These fraudsters then alter and sell the policy on to an often-innocent victim. He or she is left with cover that is invalid and illegal. It seems likely your details were being used for such a scam.

Insurers are working to combat fraud, but, as you now know, they do not catch every single case.

YOU HAVE YOUR SAY – VODAFONE

I’ve been with Vodafone for two decades and the customer service has become abysmal in recent years. I’ll switch providers when my contract expires.

S. W., Gloucester.

I was billed for roaming when in N. Ireland as my phone was picked up by a mast five miles away in the Republic.

When I complained to Vodafone, a man in a call centre in Egypt insisted N. Ireland was not part of the UK, but part of Ireland.

K. V., Essex.

Thank you Money Mail. A complaint that was dragging on was resolved in 36 hours after raising it with Mr Jeffery’s office.

S. W., via email.

Vodafone sounds like it’s trying to improve. Hopefully these companies will start to realise that what we really want is for them to provide a good service.

R. M., London.

Vodafone told my son he owed £131 on an account he cancelled. After many failed calls, following Money Mail’s advice I wrote to Mr Jeffery. Within 24 hours the issue had been resolved.

C. J., via email.

I’ve been battling Vodafone for six months, but it was quickly resolved when I contacted Mr Jeffery’s office.

I believe he will turn this situation around, but I will be leaving Vodafone when my contract is up in August.

M. K., via email.

I switched to BT after years with Vodafone. I’m saving about 80 per cent, have better coverage, and gone are the £400 monthly bills because of huge roaming fees.

S. W., London.

I invested £5,000 in five £1,000 bonds with Guardian Financial Services in 1991. I received a valuation in June last year showing they were worth £22,597.

I decided to surrender them last October, but received a quotation of £5,184. I queried this and received replies suggesting I speak to a financial adviser.

As I have health problems, I put the matter to one side, but wondered if you could now investigate.

M. S., Tyne & Wear.

I have excellent news for you. The surrender value you received was for just one of your five bonds.

I have been in touch with Reassure (which now owns the old Guardian Financial Services investments) and they have written to you to confirm the actual value of your investment.

This is a much healthier £26,837 — or £5,367 per policy.

I’m not surprised you were confused because the responses from Reassure were not very helpful. The initial letter sent to you on October 12 contained a quote for only one bond.

When you queried this you received a further letter two weeks later which suggested you may want to seek financial advice and showed the surrender values for all five bonds individually.

However, as Reassure now admits, ‘this wasn’t explicitly stated in the letter’. A spokesman apologises for any confusion caused, and confirms they will deal with your request as quickly as possible once they have received the completed forms.

In December I received a letter from Npower saying I needed a gas safety check done. I arranged for an appointment on January 13 between 8am and 12am. No one turned up.

I have complained to Npower. The company claims the agent made a number of attempts to visit my property and cards were left asking me to contact them. This is simply not true.

I have asked for the dates of the supposed visits and have not received them. I am a retired police sergeant and would have responded to documents left at my address. I also have a witness who can confirm the agent did not call on January 13.

This is not my first problem with Npower. Two years ago I received a domestic electricity bill for £10,000 instead of the usual £300 to £400.

The final insult is that the latest letter warns that a warrant of entry could be applied for if I don’t make arrangements for an agent to enter the premises.

D. G., Surrey.

Energy companies can be frustrating to deal with, especially regarding missed appointments.

My energy firm arranged for an agent to read my solar panel meter. I waited all morning and no one turned up.

When I phoned to query it, they claimed somebody had visited — yet the doorbell didn’t ring and no card was left.

That’s my moan, so what about your complaint? Npower says the previous problem was due to ‘a difference in totals between your online account’ and invoices. This has now been sorted out.

It also admits it missed the appointment for the inspection and has paid you £30 compensation. Now it is trying to rebook the visit but says you refuse to speak with the bookers. I’m afraid this inspection does need to take place, so it’s time to move on.