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Andrew Price from Coversure (Hull), urges local residents and businesses to look out for “crash for cash” scams locally. “Hull may not be one of the places mentioned on the national radio or television, but this is a phenomenon that is widespread and could affect us all. The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) currently has 24 joint police operations up and down the country.”
According to the BBC, the IFB has said that approx. 30,000 accidents were intentionally caused last year. “Crash for Cash” scams cost insurers millions each year and add approx. £44 to the premium of every driver in the UK.
These scams often happen near roundabouts or on clear stretches of road. The scam works by the culprit slamming on the brakes in front of the victim’s car to ensure they have an accident. It has been known for fraudsters to purposefully disable their brake lights, use the hand brake and/or work in teams, using an accomplice to block in the victim in, making avoiding the crash practically impossible.
Sergeant Mark Beales, from Greater Manchester Police, provided insight to the BBC on how these fraudsters chose their victims. "What these fraudsters tend to pick on are people who are single mums or elderly, people who are less likely to cause them any issues. They also target drivers of commercial vehicles, because drivers tend not to care as much if they're not driving their own vehicle,"
The IFB’s spokesperson, Glen Marr, said "We estimate there are around 30,000 staged accidents a year costing the insurance industry £350m and overall, fraud adds £44 to the insurance premium of every motorist - no matter what no claims bonus or safe driving record he or she may have."
The phenomenon of staged accidents is certainly not a new one and according to the BBC News’ crime reporter, Ben Ando, up until now, these scams have predominantly happened in the north-west of England including Liverpool, Blackburn, Manchester and Leeds. However these scams appear to have caught on in other areas. Birmingham is now a hot spot for these scams and now London has made the top ten. As this scam catches on it could be likely that other areas of the UK become affected by this dangerous form of insurance fraud.
Price urges local residents to be extra vigilant when out on the road. “This kind of insurance fraud is particularly concerning for me as not only can the whole situation be terrifying for the victim, but also is highly dangerous. Unlike other types of insurance fraud, they are not just trying to get money for nothing; they are taking people’s lives in their hands”
It is very difficult to pre-empt these attacks as by their very nature, they take the victim by surprise. If you notice someone acting suspiciously while driving in front of you, slow down to increase the gap. Ensure your car is properly maintained, including your brakes and tyres, should you need to stop suddenly.
Should you be involved in a crash and the car involved was acting suspiciously, such as following you before the crash, already having their insurance details to hand or being full of people (often paid and used to support the fraudsters claim).
Whatever happens, do not challenge the other party there and then. For one, it may be a genuine accident and secondly if they are a criminal and feel threatened, they could become violent. Instead if you have your mobile phone to hand, try to take photos of the scene and ask anyone present if they are willing to be an independent witness.
Once they have gone, contact your insurer or insurance broker and the police to alert them of your suspicions.