Police crack whip on crash for cash

The police are cracking down on car insurance fraudsters who endanger road users by “crashing for cash”, with a number of high profile convictions over the last few weeks.
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Earlier this week, for example, two men were jailed and two more received suspended jail terms at Liverpool Crown Court. And last month, three men from Reading were put behind bars for targeting innocent motorists in the hope of causing unnecessary collisions as part of a crash for cash scam.

What’s going on?

Insurance fraud shot up by 18% in 2013, pushing the total to a record £1.3 billion, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Some of this fraud was committed by opportunistic individuals who simply try to increase the value of a genuine claim by adding extra items to the list of possessions stolen or damaged in an incident, or who fake or exaggerate an injury, normally whiplash. Organised insurance fraud has an altogether darker side, though – one in which criminal gangs put innocent road users’ lives at risk by staging dangerous accidents to defraud insurers. Known as “crash for cash”, it’s a trend that has grown at a worrying rate over recent years. Figures released by insurer Aviva earlier this year show that the number of crashes caused deliberately so that those involved could make insurance claims for whiplash injuries shot up by 51% last year. With motorists and pedestrians being put at risk, and “crash for cash” accidents causing the industry more than £10 million a year, it’s no surprise that both insurers and the government are keen to crack down on the perpetrators.
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How do “crash for crash” scams work?

There are a number of different types of “crash for cash” fraud. In one of the most common – and most dangerous – versions, fraudsters stage a car crash involving innocent drivers, for example by slamming their brakes on at a road junction, often having disabled the brake lights. The unsuspecting motorist behind then crashes into the back of them, meaning they can make a claim for the damage, as well as whiplash injuries – all on the other person’s insurance. The Reading fraudsters sentenced last month were involved in this type of scam – they drove in a two-car convoy in which the first would make an erratic manoeuvre, causing the second car to brake and an innocent road user to drive into the back of it. The Merseyside men jailed this week, on the other hand, simply fabricated a car crash designed to help them defraud insurer LV= out of more than £500,000. The total included claims for whiplash, replacement car hire and two written off cars – all from an accident that never took place.

What is being done to stop car insurance fraud?

The Ministry of Justice is taking a number of steps to clamp down on car insurance fraudsters, including “crash for cash” gangs. It is, for example, introducing panels of independent medical practitioners to diagnose whiplash victims, as well as banning lawyers and claim firms from offering incentives such as free tablet computers to encourage people to make insurance claims. From next year, courts will also be able to refuse compensation at any level to people found to have exaggerated an insurance claim. The ABI has also launched the Insurance Fraud Register (IFR) to combat the problem of dishonest Britons faking and exaggerating claims for their own personal gain. The first industry-wide database of known insurance fraudsters, the IFR helps insurers to spot dodgy claims more easily. Ever been the victim of a crash-for-cash scam? Let us know in the box below…

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