Drivers returning to the roads as lockdown eases are being urged to be wary of scam artists staging accidents.
Changes to restrictions in England mean more motorists are heading out in their cars, creating fresh opportunities for fraudsters, according to the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).
During the strict lockdown phase when roads were up to 80 per cent quieter, the IFB saw a sharp drop in the number of crash-for-cash incidents - where con artists stage a collision to make fraudulent insurance claims.
However, it is warning that fraudsters could use the increasing traffic on England’s roads to step up their activities again, putting people’s finances and safety at risk.
Crash-for-cash scams work by using dangerous and misleading driving manoeuvres to cause an innocent driver to collide with the con artist’s car. The criminals then make false or inflated claims for damage, personal injuries and loss of earnings.
The IFB estimates that 10 per cent of all personal injury claims are linked to crash-for-cash scams and the fraud costs the insurance industry almost £340 million a year. Staged accidents are also the cause of many real injuries to innocent victims and have resulted in deaths.
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."
Spotting and avoiding a crash-for-cash scam
Crash-for-cash “accidents” often sees fraudsters attempt to cause collisions by slamming on their brakes at busy junctions or roundabouts in hope that the driver behind will not be able to stop in time. In some instances, the fraudster use a decoy vehicle in front of them, which drives erratically or suddenly brakes then drives off, the fraudster behind can brake sharply to cause a collision while diverting suspicion to the vehicle that left the scene.
‘Giving way’ is another tactic used, 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, 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 you should leave a gap of:
- 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.
Telltale signs you’ve been 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.
Contact your local police force to report your suspicions and then contact IFB’s Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 or at www.insurancefraudbureau.org so the bureau’s investigations team can review your evidence.