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Signs a Certificate of Insurance Might Be Forged

You require relevant insurance within a contract, and the subcontractor agrees. They submit documentation, and the coverage appears to comply. So does this mean you’re protected?

Not necessarily. Some subcontractors forge certificates of insurance (COI) to make it look like they hold an appropriate policy when they do not. This may be done to save money or speed up the process, but the results are the same regardless of the motivations: Your company will be at risk. 

If you accept a forged COI, you may be liable for damages caused by third-party contractors. Since some policies exclude work by outside vendors or subcontractors, you could end up paying the costs out of pocket. Even if your insurance policy covers associated expenses, your premium may increase as a result.

You can weed out fraudulent documents by reviewing them with a discerning eye and taking additional precautions. While this process requires more effort, it may pay off if a claim arises down the road. 


How to Spot a Fake COI 

At first glance, a fraudulent COI could appear perfectly legitimate. It’s not hard for unscrupulous contractors to find a template online and doctor it to meet your requirements. However, on closer inspection, a few issues may distinguish a fake document apart from a real one. This includes:

Missing Contact Information

Each COI should include the insurance agent’s contact information, along with the name, phone number, and address. Documents without these details are most likely fraudulent and designed to discourage you from contacting the provider to verify authenticity. 

Poor Quality 

Nowadays, most hard-copy COIs are printed at the broker’s office in response to each request. Therefore, you’re unlikely to receive a legitimate document that has been photocopied repeatedly. If the quality looks questionable, you should investigate the document further. 

Inconsistent Font

Automated systems generate COIs with the same font throughout. If a COI changes font, especially in the certificate holder information or the description of operations, it may be a forgery.

Information Is Whited Out

If it looks like information is whited out, the document has probably been inappropriately altered. You can often see whited-out information on copied documents by searching for shadow-like shading around the affected areas. 


How to Avoid Forged COIs

Since accepting a forged COI could have grave financial implications for your business, you should review each document carefully to verify its authenticity. 

The following steps are typically best practice: 

Watch for Telltale Signs

The first tip-off that a document is fraudulent may be one of the visible factors detailed above. Review each COI carefully to see if it appears valid at first glance.

Request the COI Come Directly From the Broker

Only accepting COIs directly from the agent can limit a contractor’s opportunity to alter key details.

Research the Insurance Company

Clever scammers may list a dubious insurance company on their forged COIs to feign legitimacy. If you’re not familiar with the listed provider, research the company online to learn more about its reputation and services.

Contact the Insurance Company

Call the carrier to verify the authenticity of the document. Legitimate insurers should be able to answer your questions and give you peace of mind that your subcontractor is covered.

Use a Tracking Solution 

A COI tracking solution can make it easier to collect, review, and maintain documents. Full-service options even have specially trained staff who can personally review each COI to verify its validity and compliance.


How to Verify Insurance

Verifying insurance coverage typically involves confirming that an individual or entity has an active insurance policy in place and determining the extent of coverage provided by that policy. Here are the general steps you can take to verify insurance:

The following steps are typically best practice: 

Ask for documentation

Request documentation from the individual or entity you wish to verify insurance for. This may include an insurance policy declaration page, insurance card, or a certificate of insurance.

Review the documentation

Carefully review the documentation provided to ensure it is current and valid. Look for key details such as the insurance company's name, policy number, effective dates, and coverage limits.

contact the insurance company

Reach out to the insurance company directly to verify the coverage. You can typically find contact information for the insurer on the insurance documentation provided. Provide the policy number and any other necessary information to the insurance company representative.

Ask Specific Questions

When contacting the insurance company, ask specific questions to confirm details about the policy, such as the type of coverage provided, coverage limits, deductibles, and any exclusions or endorsements.

Verify Coverage Online (if possible):

Some insurance companies offer online portals where you can verify coverage by entering the policy number or other identifying information. Check if the insurer provides this option and utilize it if available.

Check with Regulatory Agencies (if applicable):

In some cases, particularly for certain types of insurance such as auto insurance, you may be able to verify coverage through state or regulatory agencies. These agencies may have online databases or other resources for verifying insurance coverage.

Request a Certificate of Insurance:

If you need formal confirmation of insurance coverage for a specific purpose, such as for a business transaction or contract, you can request a certificate of insurance directly from the insurance company. This document provides written proof of coverage and typically includes details about the policy.

By following these steps, you can effectively verify insurance coverage and ensure that individuals or entities have the necessary insurance protection in place.

bcs is a leading COI tracking partner. Our self-service solution provides access to our app and software to empower you to track documents on your own, and our full-service option adds a dedicated team of compliance analysts to help review and verify COIs and ensure your subcontractors are contractually compliant. Contact us today to discuss the best options for your business.

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