‘Crash for Cash’ is a term used to describe criminals who deliberately cause road traffic collisions for financial gain. By using dangerous and misleading driving maneuvers, fraudsters are known to lure innocent motorists into a collision, leaving shaken drivers appearing at fault and scammers in a position to make bogus insurance claims for financial compensation.
Following the government’s easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England which allows for certain open-air sports activities, more shops to be open and outdoor meetings with one other household member – an increase in road traffic is widely anticipated.
While times of economic hardship are widely seen as an opportunity for fraudsters, ‘Crash for Cash’ scammers largely depend on public roads and innocent motorists to commit their reckless crimes, and have been less able to carry out their offences during the lockdown.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) which receives reports of insurance fraud from the public via its Cheatline saw a big drop in ‘Crash for Cash’ reports during the lockdown, leaving serious concerns that as cars begin to return to the roads, the ‘Crash for Cash’ scammers will also abruptly re-emerge.
The risk of falling victim to ‘Crash for Cash’ scams is also heightened by the fact many motorists will be using their vehicle for the first time in a long while and the condition of their vehicle or driving skills may not be up to a high standard.
The IFB is a not-for-profit organisation that tackles organised insurance fraud on behalf of the insurance industry and has worked with UK police to detect and disrupt hundreds of cases of organised criminal groups from committing ‘Crash for Cash’ since its inception in 2006.
Through its investigations the IFB has seen countless numbers of people suffer inconvenience, expense and even injury from orchestrated motor collisions. Worse, in some instances, people have been killed.
The economic impact of ‘Crash for Cash’ is also significant. The IFB estimates 10% of personal injury claims are linked to suspected ‘Crash for Cash’ cases costing insurers a staggering £340 million a year, which is ultimately added to the cost of honest motorists’ insurance premiums.
Stephen Dalton, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at the IFB, said: “We’ve seen many innocent motorists seriously injured and sadly in some cases killed, all because callous fraudsters want to make some money. The lockdown made it harder for ‘Crash for Cash’ scammers to facilitate their crime, so after weeks of reduced activity, we have serious concerns they will return in a big burst.
”We urge motorists to take a short moment to educate themselves on the warning signs of ‘Crash for Cash’ scams and our safe driving tips – it could save them from falling victim. And crucially if you think you’ve been a victim, you can report suspicions of insurance fraud to our Cheatline at insurancefraudbureau.org/cheatline.”
‘Crash for Cash’ often sees fraudsters attempt to cause collisions by slamming their brake at busy junctions or roundabouts in hope that the driver behind will not be able to stop in time. In some instances, the fraudster works with a ‘decoy’ vehicle in front of them. By having the decoy in front drive erratically or suddenly brake and drive off, the fraudster behind can brake sharply to cause a collision while diverting suspicion to the vehicle that left the scene.
‘Giving way’ is also a concerning causal factor in ‘Crash for Cash’ scams, where fraudsters either encourage unsuspecting motorists to pull out of a side road or remain stationary until they creep forward for a clearer view of a junction, then deliberately drive into them.
To help motorists protect themselves from falling victim to ‘Crash for Cash’ scams the IFB has compiled some essential advice:
Keep your distance
Always keep a good distance between your vehicle and the one in front to reduce the chance of a collision when slowing down to stop. According to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) the time required to safely stop is:
2 seconds in dry conditions
4 seconds in wet conditions (double of dry conditions)
20 seconds in icy or snowy conditions (ten times more than dry conditions)
In adverse weather conditions remember to only drive if your journey is essential.
It’s also important to pay close attention to the vehicle ahead and not focus only on its lights as some fraudsters have been known to disable brake lights when attempting ‘Crash for Cash’.
Always drive as safely as possible and stick to the rules of the highway code.
Look ahead to spot any potential hazards which includes road users’ behaviour. If you see activity that looks risky or suspicious from other drivers, their passengers or the condition of their vehicles (such as rear dents), stay calm and keep back. Suspected insurance fraud activity can be reported to the IFB.
Watch out for ‘tell-tale’ signs you’ve been involved in a ‘Crash for Cash’ collision:
The other driver or its passengers may appear unphased after the collision.
In contrast the other driver or passengers may appear to display injuries completely at odds with the impact of the collision.
You may be provided with pre-written insurance details.
What to do if you think you’ve been targeted
Do not confront the other driver or other passengers if you believe you’ve been scammed as it may put your safety at risk. Continue as normal and exchange your details as legally required.
Note as much information as possible about the driver, any passengers and circumstances of the collision. This can include written information, pictures, dashcam footage and noting any CCTV in the area.
Image credit: Pixabay