By Katie Raymond
It’s hard enough to ensure that your subcontractors are insurance compliant, but it’s important to keep an eye out for fraudulent certificates of insurance (COI). Following are suggestions on identifying COIs that may not be legal:
Acord 25. The most trustworthy insurance agencies utilize the Acord 25 form. Check the bottom left-hand corner of the COI to ensure that the certificate says “Acord 25.” Red Flag: Acord 25 is not on the form.
Legitimate companies. Look at the insurance company on the top right of the certificate. Contact your insurance agent to make sure the company is legitimate. You can also visit www.ambest.com to look up the insurance company in question, and then use the “ratings and analysis” section to verify that the insurance company listed on the certificate actually exists. Red Flag: The company doesn’t exist.
Handwriting/mismatching fonts. Examine the policy’s effective and expiration dates and description of operations section. Make sure that information is aligned properly and typed in the same font as the rest of the document. Red Flag: Handwritten dates or typography doesn’t match the rest of your form.
Generic forms. Surf the Internet and you will find several “free” COI documents that people can use to pass off as valid. Red Flag: If the rectangle in the bottom right corner is blank or says “CLEAR ALL,” the COI has been made with a PDF filler application or something similar.
Lack of response. Call the insurance company listed on the form to verify the certificate’s accuracy. Red Flag: The agents are uncomfortable responding to your request for verification or they deny that the contractor in question is their insured.
Verifying certificates of insurance (COI) requires a delicate approach to avoid offending honest subcontractors or perhaps falsely accusing someone of submitting a fake certificate. Consider requiring your subs to sign an insurance release authorization form as part of their subcontractor agreement. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it should state: “I recognize that ‘your company’ may contact my insurance company directly to ask questions, gain insight and learn specifics about the policies for which I have provided proof.” Once a contractor signs the form, they are on alert that your compliance staff may investigate the COI.
Katie Raymond is office manager for Case Snow Management.