Do you live in a ‘crash-scam’ hotspot?

Did you know that the thick end of £50 of your annual insurance premium goes to line the pockets of fraudsters? So-called ‘crash for cash’ scams cost insurers over £390million every year, and that expense is inevitably reflected in what they charge honest policyholders. So if we can bring an end to this type of fraud, we should see premiums fall as well.

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The Insurance Fraud Bureau has teamed up with Crimestoppers to ask the public to share information on criminals who stage car accidents and put public safety at risk. You can call the Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 or you can use the website at www.crashscam.co.uk

All the Bs

The top 10 postcodes for crash for cash incidents are all in Birmingham, Bradford and Bolton. Other hotspots include parts of Manchester, Liverpool, Halifax and Greater London. But incidents have been reported from across the UK, with those involved often travelling considerable distances to perpetrate their crimes.

So what is ‘crash for cash’?

When it comes to insurance claims, fraud is a big problem. There is a belief is some quarters that insurers are ‘fair game’ and that insurance fraud is a victimless crime. But every time you pay your premium, remember it’s higher than it needs to be because you’re subsidising a criminal. When it comes to car insurance, there are two types of fraud. One is opportunist, when individuals invent or, more likely, exaggerate injury – whiplash – following a genuine accident. The second is the fully-fledged ‘crash for cash’ multi-million pound scam, when car crashes are staged deliberately to allow criminals to make hefty claims, with whiplash again being the injury of choice. Whiplash is favoured because it is difficult to disprove. The government has recognised the problem and is introducing measures to impose stricter criteria for whiplash claims, including verification by an independent medical panel, rather than a GP alone.

Innocent victims

Crash for cash insurance fraud has two classes of innocent victim: the policyholder whose premium is inflated as a result of the bent claims and, perhaps even more seriously, the motorist who is targeted by the crooks while driving down the road. Motorists in crash for cash hotspots are being warned to be particularly vigilant. A favoured technique of the scammers is to brake sharply in front of an innocent driver at a junction, usually a roundabout, as liability usually attaches to the car at the rear of an incident of this nature. Some villains even disable their brake lights to increase the likelihood and severity of the collision. And subsequent claims will often include the details of several passengers, all with supposed severe whiplash injuries, even though the innocent driver can only recollect the driver being in the damaged vehicle at the time of the incident. By reporting suspicions anonymously via the Cheatline, the public will provide information to complement insurance industry data, and help identify the criminals behind these dangerous incidents.

Harm’s way

Ben Fletcher, director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, said: “Far from being a victimless crime, ‘crash for cash’ scams hit motorists in the pocket and put other road users in harm’s way. While the hotspots show where fraudsters are prevalent the reality is that staged accidents can happen anywhere and at any time. Working with police forces across the country we’ve secured over 850 arrests to date and information from the Cheatline will help us bring more of these criminals to justice.” Roger Critchell, director of operations for Crimestoppers, said: “This is a serious and organised crime that funds other crimes, including weapons and drug smuggling. For this reason I would urge anyone who has information on those committing these premeditated incidents to contact Cheatline anonymously. We don’t want to know who you are, only who the fraudsters are.” Those numbers again: Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 or www.crashscam.co.uk And for a breakdown of the regional figures, check out the Crimestoppers_Cheatline_Infographic

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