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An Illustrated Guide to Fake Certificates

This blog has addressed the topic of fake certificates in the past. These fraudulent documents happen in nearly ever industry, but are most commonly provided by contractors to homeowners.

A homeowner recently attempted to file a claim with Hayes for work done by a tree trimmer. The tree trimmer provided a certificate of insurance to the homeowner from Hayes, using an old certificate from when they were insured by Hayes years prior.

This fraudulent certificate provides a wealth of information on how to spot fakes.

From The Top

The certificate date appears to be in a slightly larger font that the rest of the type on the page. It also could be more centered.  Most likely, the perpetrator scanned the certificate and edited it without checking the font size.

The Contact Name shows a department name rather than a contact name at the agency. The phone number is also invalid. The number listed should be a valid number for the agency.

Insurer B on this particular certificate does not actually do business in California. KEMI is a Kentucky based insurance carrier.

The Middle

There are a couple of things wrong with the middle section. To the left, there are handwritten Xs in the boxes. While this may have been common in the past, technology today makes checking a box as easy as clicking a radio button in the software. Many policies may have a Per Project Aggregate and a Per Location Aggregate on the same policy, but the certificate will usually only indicate one or the other.

The middle box shows the same policy number for the General Liability, Auto Liability and Umbrella policies. This is not typical, as these policies are often written separately and would have different policy numbers.

The red box to the right shows that font problem again. This time the dates are much smaller that the rest of the typeface. They also are not aligned properly, something a computer-generated certificate can avoid.

The arrow points to the Workers Compensation policy number. These policy numbers typically start with the letters WC.

The Bottom

The bottom also has a few issues. The certificate holder information was included in the description of operations box. This box is typically used for additional information about the project being insured, as well as any specific endorsements relating to coverage or specified by the certificate holder.

The certificate holder box had the (former) client’s name in it. The certificate information goes here and the policyholder information goes at the top.

The signature here is no one that currently works for or as ever worked for the agency.

How To Combat Fraud

While most contractors are on the up-and-up, occasionally someone gets into a bind and will try to slip a fake certificate past you.  The above clues may help you spot a fake, but here are ways to keep from receiving fraudulent certs:

  1. Call the broker on the certificate. The name and address of the broker usually appears at the top of every certificate. Call the office directly (you may need to Google the number) and ask if coverage is current before allowing a contractor to do work on your premises.
  2. Request that the certificate be sent directly from the broker. Brokers can mail, fax or email a certificate directly to you if coverage is current. Some brokers can do this instantly, though some may require a day or two to produce the certificate.

The homeowner in this scenario didn’t verify coverage and is now going to have a hard time getting their claim paid by the contractor, since there is no current coverage in place. Don’t wait until the contractor has already started or completed work to verify coverage. If you do, you may find yourself out of luck.

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