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It was as if the internet knew I was shopping for a new policy: Everywhere I looked was an advertisement for some online marketplace promising to find me the cheapest auto insurance around. QuoteWizard. The Zebra. EverQuote. But I did a little digging and found out that they are all part of a big scam.

The above companies all belong to a company named QuinStreet. And QuinStreet’s customer isn’t you, the driver. No, it is hundreds of companies looking for leads on potential customers. And they are not auto insurance companies. They sell home mortgages to people, or solar panels, or that pesky extended vehicle warranty. And with QuinStreet’s help, they will reach you.

QuinStreet’s racket is offering to build websites promising to get you quotes from multiple insurance providers. Then it collects all of your data to sell. We’re talking your car, your home address, who you live with, your driving history, credit, driver’s license number, and your job. And sure, it will give you a list of insurance quotes (often more expensive policies than the insurance providers themselves would offer). But to see these quotes, you’ll need to agree to receive telemarketing texts and calls from the websites “marketing partners.” One the “do not call” list? Doesn’t matter, you’ve agreed to calls.

Woman stares at her ringing phone as she gets a telemarketing call.
Telemarketing call | Liubomyr Vorona via iStockPhoto

David Troutman is, of all things, a lawyer who represents lead generation company trade organizations. But he says “bad actors” give the entire industry a bad name. “One consumer may literally receive thousands of phone calls for months, if not years, based on one webform submission…and there’s no way to stop it.”

That sounds like a big pain in the bumper for an insurance quote. As I said above, the kicker is that most of these insurance rate comparison websites slap you with a higher premium. You’re better off going to the insurance providers themselves for a quote. Want to use a single website to get a ballpark of who will charge what? Consumer Reports thinks your best bet is Experian, Policygenius, or apps by “” and “Jerry.”

I found Experian a bit glitchy, but Policygenius worked well for me. I also downloaded “Jerry: The All Car App” and “Way – #1 Auto Super App.” Jerry gave me the same quotes as Policygenius. found the cheapest one. But obviously rates vary widely by your location, age, and what you drive.

As for QuinStreet, the Federal Communications Commission has set its sites on stopping such crooked lead generation methods. The new rules would require companies get permission from you every single time they sell a lead once. The attorney generals from 28 states have even piled on, signing an open letter in support of the FCC’s new rule. But in the meantime, I’m going to be careful who gets my information, even for an auto insurance quote.

Next, how GM got caught selling your driving data.