Crash for Cash - how to protect yourself against insurance fraud

'Crash for Cash' scams are costing UK motorists millions of pounds every year - here's how to protect yourself...

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Darren Moss
22 January 2016

Crash for Cash - how to protect yourself against insurance fraud

Insurance fraud is big business in the UK, and it's costing drivers millions of pounds every year. Fraudsters are deliberately targeting UK motorists in 'Crash for Cash' scams - and even those of us not caught up in the scam are paying for it through increased insurance premiums.

In December of last year, more than 80 people were convicted in the largest Crash for Cash insurance scam ever recorded in the UK. A family-owned garage business in Wales was found to have cost the insurance industry £763,068 over a period of four years. CCTV footage showed cars being deliberately damaged and crashed so that the garage owners could claim for inflated damages.

What is ‘Crash for Cash’?

The so-called Crash for Cash scam is a type of insurance fraud.  According to the AA, the most common form involves the fraudster pulling in front of another car and braking sharply, giving the innocent party little chance of avoiding a rear-end collision. Alternatively, the fraud car will accelerate hard away from a roundabout or crossing and then brake sharply.

Drivers have also reported cars braking hard when approaching a pedestrian crossing, while others have reported that the fraudster’s car appeared to have no working brake lights, giving them even less chance of avoiding a crash.

Scammers will then make fraudulent insurance claims for the repair and storage of their damaged vehicle, often at the expense of the innocent party. The UK’s Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) estimates that Crash for Cash scams cost the UK around £336 million in 2015, with one in 10 personal injury claims linked to suspected crash for cash scams. In total, 55,573 personal injury claims were linked to Crash for Cash scams in 2015.

Other examples of Crash for Cash scams include staged accidents, where both the vehicles involved are owned by criminals. The crash will happen away from public roads, so as to minimise witnesses. In some cases, fraudsters have even staged ‘ ghost accidents’ which only exist on paper, and involve fabricated claims and fake eye-witness accounts.

A recent poll by the IFB revealed that 73% of the UK population believe that Crash for Cash scams are a big problem in this country, with seven in 10 motorists concerned about sustaining injuries in a deliberately caused accident.

It’s estimated that the cost of insurance fraud raises the insurance premiums of every UK motorist by £50 per year on average.

National agency Crimestoppers says the most Crash for Cash accidents take place in Bradford, with Birmingham and Bolton following close behind. Crash for Cash claims in London are relatively low by comparison. 

IFB director Ben Fletcher told What Car?: "The perception that insurance fraud is a victimless crime is completely out-dated. Fuelled by greed, the reality is that ‘crash for cash’ insurance cheats have a negative impact on society by putting the lives of innocent people in danger when they deliberately cause crashes and by costing honest policy holders almost £350 million each year."

"Currently the IFB is co-ordinating 130+ operations into organised fraud and so insurance cheats should be aware that by working with police forces and insurers across the UK, we will leave no stone unturned in pursuing fraudsters, securing prison sentences and making our roads safer."

What to do if you’re involved in an accident

The best way to prevent becoming a victim in a crash for cash scam is to use common sense on the road. Look well ahead, allow plenty of space between yourself and the car in front, and be aware of other road users.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a crash for cash scheme, the AA has issued guidelines on what to do. Its experts say:

  • Don’t admit liability at the scene, and don’t alert the other driver to your suspicions.

  • Take written notes and plenty of pictures to use as evidence, and insist on calling the Police to alert them to your suspicions.

  • Check for witnesses and inform your insurer as soon as possible.

If you believe you have been a victim of a crash for cash fraud, call the Insurance Fraud Bureau’s Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 or visit their website for more information. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.