Motorists are being warned about an aggressive new strain of the ‘crash for cash’ scam that is being used by opportunistic criminals.
Investigators from anti-fraud specialists APU say the new tactic involves the criminals deliberately causing an accident and then intimidating the innocent victim into handing over money in return for not getting insurers involved.
Historically, ‘crash for cash’ gangs stage collisions and then make fraudulent personal injury claims through insurers, pocketing the pay-outs if they get past the insurers’ fraud detection systems.
But this emerging version of the crime is increasingly being used by gangs looking for a ‘quick fix’ route to the money by sidestepping the insurer and the risk of detection by the Police.
Criminals tend to target more vulnerable motorists, like young females who are driving alone, or elderly people, in the hope that they can force them to hand over cash more readily.
Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at APU, said: “Clearly, going through the insurance claims system poses the risk for criminals that their personal details will be recorded and previous dishonest claims or claims which weren’t paid out identified. This emerging trend shows just how entrepreneurial criminals can be; they just want the money and this is a faster, easier way for them to get it without being caught.
“It’s the modern day equivalent of highway robbery.”
The scam is so prevalent in certain areas that Thomas even witnessed a recent attempt by a gang in Birmingham.
The former police inspector attempted to apprehend two men in a red Hyundai after catching them staging an accident with another vehicle, driven by a young lady, by pulling in front of it and slamming on their brakes to cause a collision.
When approached by Thomas, the driver sped off, ramming Thomas’s parked car as he went but, on further investigation, Thomas discovered that the same men in the Hyundai had tried the same tactics elsewhere an hour earlier, when they again targeted a 23-year old female in another sting.
“By demanding money at the roadside, they won’t get the same level of pay-out as if they’d filed an insurance claim,” explained Thomas.
“So they are trying the same stunt several times a day in order to try and get enough cash to make it worth their while, which makes this a dangerous tactic.
“The more accidents they try and cause in a day, the more chance there is that an innocent motorist will be injured, not to mention the number of people subjected to menacing, personal confrontations.”
In both instances involving the red Hyundai, police initially declined to become involved in investigating the offences, advising the motorists to speak with their insurers. They have now accepted reports of the incidents, having been provided with video footage shot by Thomas.