No matter how well regulated the UK’s financial sector is, the threat of fraud is constant. As quickly as one new fraud prevention or detection method is put in place, fraudsters are planning new ways of getting around it.
The car insurance industry is one of the fraudsters’ favourite targets. Not a week goes by without media reporting the uncovering of a crash for cash scam somewhere in the UK. In February, four men were jailed for a combined 37 years after their plot resulted in the death of an 88-year-old great-grandmother in Leeds. Only last week, dash-cam footage was released of a vehicle on a busy road in Bradford trying to cause an accident by braking in front of an HGV. Motor insurance fraud is dangerous, reckless and costly to everyone. It is believed £40.00 of every insurance premium is spent investigating or defending fraudulent claims.
Risk / Return
Is it really worth risking serious injury to make a few quid out of insurers? To the ordinary person, you might think not, however the crash for cash gangs apply a number of tactics to lower the risk, including:
- Targeting low-speed areas such as roundabouts, junctions and traffic lights;
- Targeting flat-fronted vehicles such as vans and trucks;
- Slowing traffic down by driving at low speed;
- Not even having an accident – just pretending they did!!
Further, the reward for a “successful” scam can be handsome. The gangs can make thousands of pounds from a simple rear-end shunt:
- Submitting personal injury claims from all the occupants of their car;
- Claiming for physiotherapy and other treatments;
- Storing the damaged vehicle in a storage yard they own / are linked with;
- Hiring an expensive vehicle to replace their damaged car;
- Claiming lost income from time off work;
- Claiming the cost of care given by family members;
- Using Claims Management Companies with which they have affiliations.
Not only are the rewards worth the risk, but also the punishment for being found guilty of committing fraud are fairly light compared to other criminal activities. In addition, it is very difficult to prove fraud; a lot of claims are simply settled by insurers because it is too risky and expensive to take on the claimants in court.
Developments in technology are reducing the number of dark corners in which the fraudsters can hide. Insurers, solicitors, the courts and even the government are taking the fight to the criminal gangs by cutting off their options:
- Dashboard cameras are more common additions to commercial vehicles as well as domestic cars;
- Some insurers install “black box” data recorders into their policyholders’ vehicles to track their usage and to spot any unusual activity;
- Data is shared between insurance companies and solicitors. This enables the insurer to check a person’s claims history and any problem flagged, along with links to any “hotspot” addresses, vehicles or companies;
- The government proposes to reduce the amount of money which can be claimed for whiplash injuries. Unfortunately, whilst this proposal is a good idea in theory, in practice it will punish innocent victims of genuine accidents far more than the fraudsters.
What can you do to help?
Prevention is always cheaper than the cure. Here are a couple of things every road user can do to avoid becoming another victim of the crash for cash gangs:
- Keep an eye out for suspicious driving. Is a car driving too slowly with nothing in front of it? Is it stopped at a green light? Has it stayed too long at a roundabout junction when it is clear to move?
- Always keep your distance. If your braking distance is wide, the fraudsters will slow down to try and narrow it. Do not let that happen!
- Take a note of the vehicle registration if you see a driver acting suspiciously.
- If you are involved in a collision and you are suspicious of the circumstances, make sure you take down as much detail as possible. This should include vehicle registrations, insurance details, names of anyone in the other car and addresses.
- TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS! One trick often pulled is exaggeration of damage to the vehicles; if you can prove the impact barely scratched their car, you may deter them from bringing a claim and encourage your insurer to challenge the validity of the claims.
Our solicitors have extensive experience of defending claims on behalf of insurers, so we know what to look out for when a claim is brought. This also helps us when we are receiving instructions in personal injury claims. We do not receive any of our instructions from claims management companies, and we make sure the circumstances of all of our clients’ accidents are thoroughly investigated before we proceed with a claim.
If you are concerned you have been the victim of a crash for cash scam or have had an accident in unusual circumstances that was not your fault, our personal injury solicitors would be happy to discuss it with you and protect your position. Call us today on 0800 988 7756 for a free consultation.