Crash for Cash or deliberately staging traffic accidents for financial gains is big business in the UK and, according to the Insurance Fraud Bureau, costs in the region of £340m a year.
The scams are run by fraudsters who manufacture crashes, often with innocent motorists, in order to profit from a false insurance claim. And with a single collision potentially worth tens of thousands of pounds, these organised criminals are orchestrating multiple accidents that can be worth millions. In fact, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) claims that in 2015 there were 55,573 personal injury claims linked to suspected Crash for Cash scams.
So, how does it all work and what should you look out for to avoid becoming a target or victim? In order to benefit from false insurance claims, these gangs adopt one of three approaches. The first is the ‘Staged’ accident where two vehicles both belonging to criminals are deliberately crashed together away from public view. At times, they have simply taken a sledge hammer to the cars to mimic the effects of a genuine crash.
The second method is the ‘Induced’ accident whereby an innocent motorist is targeted. The most common bumps on our roads involve a car being shunted from behind and the driver of the following car is generally deemed at fault for failing to stop. In these incidents, the criminal will deliberately cause an accident often by pulling out in front of the innocent victim and slamming the brakes on. Sometimes the brake lights have been disabled so the following driver gets the minimal amount of warning. Fake witnesses and decoy vehicles have also become part of the sophisticated plot to make the accident seem authentic.
The final fraudulent method is the ‘Ghost’ accident which is a paper-based fraud involving fabricated claims for accidents that never actually took place.
According to the IFB, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for to avoid a Crash for Cash scam. For example, if the other driver is far too calm to have been in a real accident; they already have all their insurance details ready when you get out the vehicle or if any injuries seem too exaggerated for the severity of the accident.
If you think you have been targeted you should make a note of as much information about the accident, other driver, any passengers or other witnesses. Try to take photos of the accident scene if possible, call the police and report your Crash for Cash suspicions.
These latest warnings to motorists come after two dangerous insurance fraudsters were jailed for 18 years collectively for their crimes around the Slough area.
In the joint investigation between the IFB, the insurance industry and Thames Valley Police, one of the largest Crash for Cash operations ever was discovered. It was revealed that the fraudsters went to great lengths to conceal their crimes using false details to insure vehicles and creating hundreds of fake driving licences and passports so claims could be submitted under different names and addresses. The gang scrapped more than 80 vehicles at the same scrapyard in an attempt to cover their tracks and the IFB were able to identify more than 500 deliberate crashes where fraudulent policies had been taken out.
Following a four-week trial at Reading Crown Court, Boota Ram, of Faraday Road, Slough, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for Conspiracy to Commit Fraud to be served concurrently with two additional three-year sentences for possession of articles for the Use in Fraud and Gagandeep Gagandeep, also of Faraday Road, Slough, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for Conspiracy to Commit Fraud.
Jason Potter, Head of Investigations, said: “It’s lucky that no-one was more seriously hurt in this greedy and dangerous scam. These criminals put the lives of people in their own neighbourhood in danger, deliberately colliding with innocent members of the public just to line their own pockets. This scam was worth millions, and it’s down to the hard work, tenacity and patience of all those involved that have ensured these fraudsters have been held accountable for their crimes.”