Customers seeking insurance cover have been warned to be alert to the risks posed by fraudsters posing as legitimate brokers.

It follows the first ever conviction of a so-called "ghost broker" in this country.

Ghost brokers sells invalid or forged insurance to unwitting customers who are then left without legitimate cover.

They often do this by offering very low premiums that look too good to be true.

Last week 28 year old Martin Hanudel, of Tubberclaire Meadows, Athlumney, Navan in Co Meath, who was described by Judge Martina Baxter as the face of a ghost broker insurance scam, was jailed at Trim Circuit Court.

Last year he became the first person in the country to admit to the crime of operating as a ghost broker when he pleaded guilty to 12 charges of deception on dates between June 2016 and Mar 2017.

The court heard that Hanudel targeted the Slovak community through social media sites offering cheap insurance.

He operated as a bogus intermediary by giving the insurers false information about the value of his unsuspecting clients cars, their employment, no claims histories and other information to get the cheap policies.

The clients then paid the policy premium to the insurer and paid the defendant his fee separately.

Brokers Ireland welcomed the news of the first conviction and cautioned that the problem is on the rise here.

"Fraudsters often target young, or what might be considered more vulnerable consumers, often foreign nationals who are not clear on how the insurance market works in Ireland and who may not have a good command of the English language", said Cathie Shannon, Director of General Insurance at Brokers Ireland.

"If it seems too good to be true, it usually transpires that it is."

Brokers said consumers should always check to see if a person or firm selling or administering insurance is legitimate.

This can be done by checking the Central Bank of Ireland website to see if it is listed as a regulated company, or by checking the website of Brokers Ireland.

"Consumers need to be alert at all times", said Ms Shannon. 

"Think twice before purchasing insurance from sources such as social media sites and carefully check any insurance documentation for accuracy", she said.

Last Tuesday 28-year-old Martin Hanudel, of Tubberclaire Meadows, Athlumney, Navan in Co Meath, who was described by Judge Martina Baxter as the face of a ghost broker insurance scam was jailed at Trim Circuit Court.

Last year he became the first person in the country to admit to the crime of operating as a ghost broker when he pleaded guilty to 12 charges of deception on dates between June 2016 and March 2017.

The court heard that Hanudel targeted the Slovak community through social media sites offering cheap insurance.

He operated as a bogus intermediary by giving the insurers false information about the value of his unsuspecting clients cars, their employment, no claims histories and other information to get the cheap policies.

The clients then paid the policy premium to the insurer and paid the defendant his fee separately.