How do I avoid being a ‘crash for cash’ victim?

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1. Paying the price

According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau ‘crash for cash’ costs the UK £340m every year. And who ends up paying for it? You guessed it – the honest motorists who pay their premiums.

The scam is usually carried out by criminal gangs who make fraudulent claims on car insurance. The profits are often used to fund other crimes like illegal firearms, drug dealing and people trafficking. So how can you avoid being a victim?

2. Know the signs

Crash for cash scammers choose their victims carefully – they keep an eye out for drivers who look like they would be fully insured but be less likely to cause a fuss. Mothers with children on board and the elderly are favoured victims. If you've been a victim, the circumstances are likely to be as follows.

The accident

A car in front of you slams on the brakes for no obvious reason, and you have no time to react and collide with the car in front. Another scenario (known as ‘flash for cash’) happens when a driver flashes their lights at a junction to let you out, then crashes into you deliberately.

The blame

The other driver will insist the accident is your fault. The scammer will then hand over their insurance details – sometimes already prepared and written down.

The claim

A few weeks after the accident your insurers will write to you with details of the other driver’s claim which will be exaggerated with costs like car hire, recovery and whiplash injuries.

3. Crash nation

The Association of British Insurers says that every year fraud costs honest policyholders around £50 each in higher premiums. Martin reports that innocent lives are also being put at risk.

Footage courtesy of Gwent Police & IFED, City of London Police.

4. Avoid the scam

To avoid being a victim, the following precautions may help.

Be aware

Keep an eye out ahead for possible hazards at all times and look out for erratic, unpredictable drivers. Remember to leave plenty of braking space between you and the car in front.

Backwards glances?

Look out for drivers or passengers who seem to be paying attention to the vehicle behind them, it could also be a sign they are planning to cause an accident.

Beware of the flash

Do not assume that if a driver flashes their headlights that it's safe to pull out – use your own judgement and proceed carefully. And don't put too much faith in another driver's indicator. Wait until the car actually starts turning to be sure where it is going. And speaking of lights, be aware that fraudsters often disable their brake lights to make it easier to cause an accident.

5. If you think you've been a victim

If you have been in an accident and you are suspicious, make sure you take the following steps:

  • Don’t admit liability for anything at the scene.
  • It is best not to challenge the other driver directly with your suspicions.
  • Make written notes of what happened. Take descriptions of the other driver/passengers along with what is said.
  • If it's safe, take photographs of the scene and damage to the vehicles. Do it discreetly if you can.
  • Insist on calling the police – you may find the fraudster may well back off.
  • Check for independent witnesses, but be aware that gangs can plant witnesses as part of the scam.
  • Report the incident to your insurer as soon as possible and tell them about your suspicions.
  • Report the incident to the Insurance Fraud Bureau, either through their website or by calling their Cheatline on 0800 422 0421.