Published March 09, 2021 • 3 minute read
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.
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.
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.
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.