Almost 150 Hampshire drivers have been conned up to £60,000 in an online car insurance scam, police warn.

City of London Police have launched a major investigation into a nationwide ghost broking scheme, according to a report from Insurance Times’s sister regional newspaper the Southern Daily Echo.

So far 50 drivers have reported incidents to authorities after discovering motor insurance bought through Personal Touch Insurance was invalid.

But the City of London’s Police Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) warns three times as many people nationally have fallen victim to the scame - with the majority in Hampshire and Dorset.

Members of Action Fraud initially alerted police after customers began reporting incidents at the end of last year.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) Cyber Prevention and Disruption Team identified the company’s website as bogus and shut it down.

IFED was then handed referrals from two insurers reporting drivers being fraudulently added to motor trade insurance policies.

During their investigation detectives uncovered evidence that pointed to as many as 150 possible victims, with a total loss believed to be in the region of £60,000.

Ghost brokers target drivers with cheap motor insurance policies which turn out to be invalid.

Victims face having their car seized by police, fines, penalties and a criminal record. Uninsured drivers would also have to pick up the bill for any damage or injuries they caused in a crash.

IFED’s work has already resulted in ghost brokers being convicted at court including those who have tried to sell/sold bogus car insurance policies online, using phony websites as well as genuine classifieds and social media websites and in person in restaurants, internet cafes and on university campuses.

City of London Police Detective Sergeant Mark Forster said: “Ghost broking is a priority for us which we are tackling alongside the insurance industry and local law enforcement.

“The consequences for motorists who fall victim to these scams can be dreadful, so it is vital that drivers shopping for car insurance online, or through other means, question what they are being offered to ensure they get a real deal.

“Driver awareness, coupled with IFED’s enforcement action, is the best way to confront this threat now and in the future.”

A 33-year-old man from Hampshire has been arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and money laundering.