Motorists in Shropshire are being told to stay vigilant after a spike in ‘crash for cash’ attempts.
In August officers reported an increase at several junctions on the A518 between Donnington and Newport. According to West Mercia Police, there were no actual collisions but there were a number of near misses.
Pressure on Motorists
Although there has been a notable surge of attempts within the Newport and Telford area, PC Lee Thomas of West Mercia Police stated that it is difficult to determine exactly how many attempts there have been across the county.
“Our initial research suggests incidents commonly happen at significant road junctions and roundabouts at busier times, for instance during the rush hour, when the innocent victim will feel extra environmental pressures to resolve the matter quickly so as not to inconvenience other motorists.”
He added: “Within Telford and Shropshire, arterial roads like the A518, A442, A5, A49 and M54 junctions have all seen reports in the recent past but we would advise motorists to consider the potential on any of the roads in our county.”
What is Crash for Cash?
Crash for cash collisions happens when a driver undertakes a deliberate action, typically braking very hard for no apparent reason, causing another motorist to collide with them. They then submit a false claim for the accident with the intention of making money.
Thomas explained that roundabouts or wide junctions are common places for these incidents. The following driver can clearly see there is no oncoming traffic and so is expecting the car to keep moving and not to stop suddenly.
The actual number of road incidents has fallen significantly since 2006, yet there has been a 60 percent rise in road injury claims despite cars being designed to offer better protection.
There are a number of scenarios in which the scam is undertaken including:
A Staged Accident - Fraudsters crash two of their own vehicles or use a sledgehammer to make it look like their car has been crashed into.
A Ghost Accident: A false claim for an accident that didn’t happen.
An Induced Accident: The fraudster brakes suddenly, causing the car behind to crash into them. Some disable their brake lights to give the unsuspecting victim no chance of stopping in time.
Over the years this method has become more sophisticated, often involving more than one participant with decoy vehicles and fake witnesses.
£1 Billion Cost To Customers
The crash for cash scam operation is big money for fraudsters and lands the insurance industry with a £392 million bill each year. Yet it is honest customers who are paying the heaviest price.
According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) in their report ‘Crash for Cash: Putting the Brakes on Fraud,’ insurers uncover 2670 fraudulent claims each week, leaving policyholders to pick up the £1 billion annual bill.
Thomas explained that damage and injury claims submitted to insurance companies are over-inflated in the hope of receiving a substantial payout.
"It can be very difficult to disprove the generally accepted rule that if you crash into the back of someone it’s your fault."
"With individual collisions, it’s often very difficult to work out if the incident is a genuine driver error on the part of one motorist or another and so police and insurance companies have to look for patterns of behaviour to establish if a crime has been committed."
The statistics only tell half the story with research suggesting that crash for cash scams are being used to fund further criminal activity.
Dave Neave, Chairman of the IFB said in the report:
"Criminal gangs organising multi-million pound ‘Crash for Cash’ scams are using the profits of their fraud to fund other crimes plaguing our society – illegal firearms, drug dealing and people trafficking, to name just a few examples.
"Far from being a victimless crime, insurance fraud is something we all need to be wary of."
Scam Victims in Shropshire
Earlier this year a motorist spoke to Shropshire Star, sharing how he had fallen victim to the scam.
James Bennett’s car was completely written off following an accident in Telford. He says he was driving along Castle Farm Way in Priorslee in Telford when two cars slowed in front suddenly, causing the second car to brake suddenly and Mr Bennett to crash into the back of it.
He told Shropshire Star: “The road was quiet and I was just going along the road behind two cars just after Junction 4 of the M54. One of the cars then turned off and the other car stopped, but had no brake lights. I went into the back of it.”
“Two men got out of the car and had their insurance details at the ready. However, when a few other cars pulled over to see if we were alright they quickly fled the scene.”
Avoiding the Scam
Motorists are advised to be cautious, especially at junctions and through roadworks around town, and to keep a safe distance between them and the vehicle in front.
"Be wary if the other driver already has their personal and insurance details written down when they get out of their car and if you can, take photographs of both vehicles in situ, especially any damage caused and the other people involved for future reference," advised Thomas
"Take witness details yourself and ignore anyone who may claim that they saw everything and so you don’t need anyone else’s info. The people involved in these scams can often have planted witnesses who later on will suddenly side with the other driver"
He also recommended that drivers invest in a dashboard mounted camera or ‘dash cam’. The devices are widely available and start at a low cost, producing good quality footage which could be invaluable in the case of any claim or investigation, either by your insurance company or police.
There are a number of signals that motorists can look out for if involved in a collision:
- No serious damage to the car
- The other person is calm but blaming you for the crash
- Already taking pictures of damage with phone
- Insurance details are written down in advance
What to do if you think you’re a victim
In the event of an incident where there is no injury disclosed at the time or damage caused by anything other than the vehicles themselves then the police do not need to attend. It will be passed to the insurance company to look into.
However, Thomas encouraged motorists who believe they have been targeted to contact their insurance company or call the police on 101 straight away to report their concerns.
“In line with general advice given out by motor insurers, never admit liability or sign any paperwork you are presented with without first getting sound legal advice.”
If you believe you have been a victim of a crash for cash scam, then report the incident to the Insurance Fraud Bureau through their website or call Cheatline on 0800 422 0421.