Gone in seconds: never hand your car keys to someone who claims to be a tracking company technician since they would not need to test drive your vehicle. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Gone in seconds: never hand your car keys to someone who claims to be a tracking company technician since they would not need to test drive your vehicle. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Victims who lose their cars to scammers posing as technicians won’t automatically be covered for the theft by their insurance companies, and policyholders need to take reasonable care to protect the vehicle.

This has emerged after Netstar and Tracker recently reported a car-theft scam involving thieves pretending to work for the tracking companies. A criminal syndicate was contacting customers claiming there is something wrong with their tracking devices and that technicians need to come out to repair or replace it. The scamsters then take the car for a “test drive” and never return.

The syndicate is said to be targeting high-value vehicles from all major tracking providers

The scam raised the question of whether victims will be able to make insurance claims for the theft of the car in these cases. Our snap survey reveals that while in some cases clients would be automatically covered, other insurance companies said each claim would be measured on its own merit.

Ernest North, co-founder at Naked Insurance, says: “Our insurance policy does not give you cover against being tricked into parting with your car as part of a fraudulent transaction that you believed was real. This particular vehicle tracking scam is more of a grey area and we will look at the specific circumstances surrounding each claim.

“Our decision about whether to pay a claim like this would come down to whether the policyholder took reasonable care to protect the vehicle. We urge customers to be vigilant about scams of all kinds — whether it is this vehicle tracking sting or a thief who drives off with the car you’re selling under the pretext of giving it a test drive.

“You should never hand your car keys over to a stranger and let them drive your car unsupervised — especially not someone who claims to be a tracking company technician since they would not need to test drive your vehicle,” says North.

Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at insurer King Price, says most insurance policies have an exclusion if the client didn’t act with due care and precaution to prevent a loss.

“But in this case, if a client doesn’t suspect anything and believes the story about the tracking company, the insurer will generally settle the claim,” he says.

His advice to avoid being scammed is to never hand over your car to a third party.

“Never give out your personal info, or make any kind of payment, to anyone claiming to be from a tracking company. End the call, and call the tracking company,” he says.

Outsurance also says it will cover the theft of vehicles even when clients are scammed, but urged consumers to be aware of risks that they may face whether it be from theft such as the current discussion, phishing scams via e-mail and sms or other creative ways. 

“On this point many of the tracking companies have sent communication out to their clients on this latest scam so we are hoping that clients are aware and that the number of thefts that take place will be small. We recommend that if any consumer is contacted under such pretences, to report this immediately to their tracking company for verification,” says Natasha Kawulesar, Head Of Client Relations at Outsurance.

Speaking on behalf of its members, the SA Insurance Association (SAIA) said those who provided feedback confirm each claim will be measured on its own merit and each insurer will follow their respective claims procedures and processes.

“There is always a requirement for the policyholder to take due care when dealing with third parties who purport to be from an official company to the point where the policyholder is convinced the technician is an official representative of the company,” says Pamela Ramagaga, GM of Insurance Risks at SAIA.

Netstar’s Operations Executive Charles Morgan said the company has alerted customers of the scam, warning them to be vigilant, as several attempts have been thwarted by alert customers.

Netstar customers are advised to ask anyone making a booking to quote their account number as a security check and to call Netstar Customer Service on 0860 12 24 36 to confirm any booking appointments.

Tracker says customers contacted by someone claiming to be from the company should ask to be taken through the Tracker security verification questions to verify the legitimacy of the call. If customers are still unsure or find the call suspicious, they should contact the Tracker call centre on 0860 60 50 40.

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