A Detroit Craigslist ad says it all:
"Auto Insurance 100% Real No Gimmick's."
Perhaps you weren't aware that fake car insurance was a problem.
In Michigan, it's a big one.
On Monday, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced a new push
to crack down on fake insurance certificates that drivers use to
register their vehicles. A one-day sampling of 15,000 registration
renewals found a fraud rate of 16 percent. Over 3,400
of those renewals involved paper certificates; 552 were
Some don't try very hard.
Almost 30 people brought in insurance certificates that day
with a computer-generated code from the insurance company on them.
"When we looked up that QR code, it had a picture of a llama that
said 'Llamas are so cool,'" Johnson says.
Johnson adds that more than half of Michigan's 83 counties
turned up fakes or forgeries. "This is not an urban or regional
problem," she says.
Car insurance in Michigan is outrageously expensive; even a very
basic policy can cost thousands of dollars a year in the
impoverished Detroit area. Motorists there turn -- some knowingly,
some in good faith -- to a variety of different fraudulent tactics,
like registering their cars outside the city or buying "7-day
insurance" to show at the registration office. Some car dealers
throw in insurance on the deal; sometimes it's fake. (See "
The city where no one has car insurance
Others methods are more blunt.
"There was one person that was advertising on Craigslist that
they could do duplicate insurance, which was obviously fraud,"
And all of them are much more likely to be caught now that the
state requires insurance companies to send electronic verification
of who's insured to the state twice a month.
The state plans to train staff to spot fake certificates and
aggressively suspend vehicle registrations of those who are caught.
Michigan is going after the sellers, too; Eaton County Prosecutor
Douglas Lloyd announced charges Monday against a man accused of
advertising fake insurance on Craigslist.
Faking car insurance is a crime pretty much everywhere, if
usually less brazen. If this is an issue in your area, or if you
bought a policy off the back of a truck, see "
Did you buy fake car insurance?