Scamwatch: "crash for cash" fraud

Jess Bown
Image 57280364  (Royalty-free) Stockbyte Platinum Low angle view of the front part of a car after an accident  Photographe
Image 57280364 (Royalty-free) Stockbyte Platinum Low angle view of the front part of a car after an accident Photographe



Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles on the scams they use to trick you out of your hard-earned cash.

This week, the car insurance fraud that puts innocent road users at risk by involving them in staged accidents.

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How does it work?

Known as "crash for cash", this scam involves drivers deliberately causing accidents by, for example, slamming their brakes on at a road junction, often having disabled the brake lights.

The aim is to force the unsuspecting motorist behind to crash into the back of them, meaning they can make a claim for the damage, as well as whiplash injuries – all on the other person's insurance.

Three men from Reading were jailed last month for running a "crash for cash" scam in which they drove in a two-car convoy in which the first would make an erratic manoeuvre, causing the second car to brake and an innocent road user to drive into the back of it.

How can I avoid being caught out?

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Insurance fraud shot up by 18% in 2013, pushing the total to a record £1.3 billion, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

And "crash for cash" scams are one of the quickest growing types of this kind of fraud.

Figures from insurer Aviva indicate that the number of crashes caused deliberately so that those involved could make insurance claims for whiplash injuries shot up by 51% last year and now cost insurers more than £10 million a year.

The best way to avoid being caught out by this scam is to always keep your wits about you when driving, and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

The Ministry of Justice is taking a number of steps to clamp down on car insurance fraudsters, including "crash for cash" gangs.

These include introducing panels of independent medical practitioners to diagnose whiplash victims.

The ABI has also launched an industry-wide database of known insurance fraudsters: the Insurance Fraud Register (IFR) to make it harder for serial criminals to get away with repeated frauds.

In the meantime, you should always tell your insurer straight away if you think an accident you were involved in may have been staged.

If you suspect anyone of committing insurance fraud of any kind, you can also call the Insurance Fraud Bureau Cheatline on 0800 4220421.

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