Unawareness of the threat of cash-for-crash accidents is the main reason more criminals are not brought to justice, as new data reveals 41 percent of drivers have never even heard of this form of gang crime.
This dangerous form of highway-banditry occurs when criminal gangs deliberately cause an accident with an innocent motorist, with the intention of making a false or inflated insurance claim. But despite co-ordinated efforts from insurers and the police that have resulted in an 11 percent reduction in cash-for-crash cases in the last two years, awareness levels have not risen during that period. In fact, two-thirds of motorists would not even know if they were involved in a deliberate or staged accident, while a further 32 percent would not know what to do if they found themselves victim of one of these situations.
Worryingly, the insurer says that unless people become aware of the cash-for-crash scam they may not recognise the signs if it were to happen to them, meaning crimes would go unreported unless the insurance company noticed anomalies during the claims process.
Pete Markey, spokesman for MORE TH>N, commented: “Even though police and insurers are making great headway in eliminating the threat of cash-for-crash accidents, there are still thousands more cases that slip under the radar. The reason for this is that motorists either aren’t aware of this threat, or aren’t able to spot the signs that they have become a victim.
“If more drivers were made aware of the dangers they are facing, it becomes more likely that they will be able to report anything unusual to their insurance company who could then make investigations and cut down on levels of fraud. What’s more, not only does insurance fraud put innocent lives at risk, but it is also responsible for adding about £401 to the average honest policy holder’s premium so its in everyone’s interests that we make it harder for crooks.”
Regionally, drivers from the NorthEast were least aware of the threat, with 52 percent of them not having heard of deliberate accidents compared to only a third in the NorthWest. The Scottish were not too far behind, with 48 percent oblivious to the crime.
If caught and successfully prosecuted, fraudsters not only face a criminal record and, in extreme cases, a jail term, but they would also find it almost impossible to secure insurance cover or indeed any financial products in the future. But despite this, it seems fraud is only too common on UK roads. In fact, 2.6m UK drivers said they would consider or already had hit a parked car but driven off quickly without leaving their details, while a further half million had been involved in a road accident but had sped off to avoid taking the blame.
The bad news for insurers, however, is that almost a million motorists have had repairs made to their vehicles, via insurance, that were not caused during an accident they were claiming for, while half a million claim they have lied about the details of a smash in order to make sure the insurance company paid for their repairs.
To help motorists avoid being involved in a cash-for-crash situation, here is a list of useful tips:
- Take extra care at busy roundabouts or junctions.
- Check you rear view mirror.
- Maintain a safe distance to the car in front at all times.
- Be aware of overly helpful witnesses.
If witnesses appear surprisingly quickly to offer assistance beware as they may be a part of the act. Corrupt doctors and mechanics have also been known to be involved, helping to inflate the value of claims. You should do this anyway, but in these situations the driver in front may brake suddenly and for no reason. They may also have unscrewed their brake lights, making it harder for you to react. Often these gangs operate from several vehicles, with one following from behind who may try to push you into the vehicle in front if you manage to stop safely. Other drivers may also be following who act as ‘witnesses’. Crooks know your attention will be split between what’s ahead and what’s approaching from other angles. You may find the car in front has not proceeded in the way you may have expected it to.
Not only is it important that you can spot the signs of a deliberate accident, but that you know what to do if you think you may have been involved in one. Follow these tips if you suspect you may have been involved in a deliberate accident:
- If you suspect you have been involved in a staged accident, don’t say anything other than ‘it is a matter for our insurance companies’
- If anyone is injured, the police should be called
- If possible take as many pictures of the accident as possible, including the driver, passengers, vehicle and any damage
- The identity of the driver is crucial so take a good description
- Establish how many passengers are in the other car and again, take a good description of them
- Take note of any other cars involved including damage and registration numbers
- Try to find an independent witness for the accident but be wary of any witnesses quick to offer their services as they may be corrupt
- Be wary of any companies who contact you quickly offering to repair your car, unless these are through your insurance company
- If you suspect the accident was intentional, inform your insurance company at the earliest opportunity
- If you know of anyone involved in staging accidents you can confidentially call the IFB Cheatline on 0800 328 2550.