Theft by False Pretences

Understanding Theft by False Pretences

Insurers have seen a sharp rise in claims connected to a recent scam where car owners are being convinced to hand their vehicles over to dealership impersonators, who then steal the vehicle.


The emergence of this scam emphasises the need for vehicle owners to remain vigilant at all times, and has highlighted an important factor to consider in relation to your vehicle insurance policy.

Read on for more about the scam itself, as well as the insurance implications of theft by false pretences.


Theft by false pretences













  • A person posing as an employee of a vehicle manufacturer or dealership calls the vehicle owner to say that there is a recall and that it is not safe to drive their vehicle.
  • The scammer is often well-spoken, very persuasive and can verify the vehicle owner’s details including when and where the vehicle was bought.
  • The scammer goes on to say that the vehicle manufacturer/dealership will not take any responsibility if the vehicle is driven further and malfunctions.
  • The vehicle owner is advised that a towing service will be arranged to collect the vehicle and arrangements are made and agreed with the vehicle owner. The vehicle owner is provided with the name of the towing service and advised that the repaired vehicle will be returned within 24 hours.
  • The scammer arranges with the towing service to collect the vehicle. In the meantime, the vehicle owner is advised that the repairs are taking longer than expected and is asked to confirm if the vehicle is fitted with a tracking device.
  • If a tracking device is fitted, the vehicle owner is led to believe that it will be temporarily disconnected while the repair is taken place.
  • The vehicle is moved to its end destination (often across the border) by which time the vehicle owner realises that the vehicle has been stolen.




theft by false pretences











Theft by false pretences is an exclusion in most insurance policies, and can leave a policyholder completely unprotected.

Theft under false pretences is defined as “an act of untrue representation of facts by one party with the intent to defraud the owner of their property, resulting in the owner willfully giving the property away”. 

In cases of theft by false pretences, ranging from email and banking scams to the car theft scam mentioned above, claims may be rejected due to the fact that the victim has willingly provided access to the intruder by supplying them with a password, pin or key.

Insurance gives the policyholder certain responsibilities to ensure any potential loss is prevented or minimised. Arguably the most important responsibility is to take all reasonable precautions to keep insured items or property safe and well maintained.

The cause of the claim is then uninsured, as the claimant has not acted with due care to secure and safeguard their belongings.




As mentioned above, policyholders have a responsibility to always act with due care to protect their possessions.

Thanks to the economic downturn and high unemployment rates, scams of all types have become increasingly common – with scammers using a range of tricks to convince victims of their authority.

Here are a few tips to keep yourself, and your possessions, safe and sound:


  • Under NO circumstances should you ever hand over your vehicle for a “recall”, without independently checking with the manufacture.
  • When you are on a call with someone who says they are representing a company, ask for their details and call the company back to confirm the situation
  • Never allow any unknown service providers to remove your possessions without verifying their identity.
  • It is unlikely that manufacturers will collect vehicles. Owners are usually responsible for delivering their vehicles directly.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you share online and telephonically. Criminals can use this data to build profiles and impersonate their victims.
  • Keep your vehicle details such as model, colour, vehicle identification and registration numbers easily accessible in emergencies, to assist with identification and recovery efforts.


Please contact our team If you have any concerns about your insurance coverage, or to find out more about policy exclusions.