Fleet News

'Crash for cash' warning as insurance fraud on the rise

rear end crash between two cars

Crash for cash remains a “real and growing” threat to fleets and company car and van drivers, according to experts at AX.

Vehicle fraud is one of the fastest growing categories of insurance fraud in the UK, according to data from industry body, Cifas.

Fraudulent car collision claims increased 45% year-on-year in 2019, compared to an average increase of 27% across all categories of insurance fraud.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) estimates that crash for cash collisions, where fraudsters stage non-fault accidents, cost the industry around £340 million a year.

Vehicle protection and management technology provider AX suggests that drivers should educate and protect themselves and their vehicles in light of the growing problem.  

Director of Investigative Services at AX, Neil Thomas, explained: “Criminals will do anything to milk the motor industry and drivers, evolving their tactics to keep people guessing and avoid detection.

“We can’t completely stamp out their activities, but we can collectively do more to curtail what is a real and growing danger to drivers.

“Recent experience has shown how some criminals have used the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown to plan motor insurance frauds, and they are now intent on cashing in at the expense of innocent motorists.”

With crash for cash schemes among the most prevalent types of insurance fraud, AX says that the different tactics can be used to minimise the risk.

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CRASH-FOR-CASH SCHEMES

Experts, including the ABI (Association of British Insurers) and AX, agree there are three main categories of crash for cash schemes: staged collisions, ghost collisions and induced collisions .

Staged collisions

Fraudsters intentionally damage vehicles to give the impression that a real crash has occurred. This could involve taking a sledgehammer to a parked car, or even intentionally crashing two vehicles – whatever it takes to fabricate the evidence.

Ghost collisions

While not strictly a crash for cash scheme, here a fraudster submits a totally fictional claim for a collision that never took place. It is like a staged collision except paper-based, taking advantage of instances where claims are never fully investigated.

Induced collisions

Finally, the most notorious tactic is the induced collision. This is where the fraudster drives in an erratic or manipulative way near innocent motorists, hoping to engineer crashes that appear legitimate.

The most reported technique used to induce collisions is braking hard while driving in front of another car, causing a rear-end collision. However, experts at AX have highlighted other, more sophisticated techniques:

  • Flash for crash: where criminals flash their lights at junctions to let other drivers out, only to crash into them on purpose.
  • Hide and crash: where criminals hide in a driver’s blind spot before moving in front and slamming on the brakes.
  • Crash for ready cash: where the fraudster extorts cash from the driver at the roadside rather than through their insurer.

TIPS TO GUARD AGAINST CRASH FOR CASH SCHEMES

What can drivers and fleets do to protect their vehicles from crash for cash schemes? These are AX’s key recommendations for private motorists as well as fleet managers:

Learn/teach drivers to recognise the warning signs

To reduce the risk of induced collisions, drivers and fleet managers should learn the warning signs of these schemes.

For example, it is often possible to identify cars used in traditional slam-on collisions because they have rear-end damage from previous scams, or because the fraudsters have intentionally disabled their brake lights to increase the chances of a collision. Also watch out for erratic driving and passengers looking back as they could be waiting to tell the driver when to slam the brakes on.  

Investigate Collisions and claims

When a collision happens, drivers should gather evidence safely at the scene. Note key facts and where possible identify potential witnesses

It is vital that fleet managers have this evidence at hand quickly to prove fraudulent behaviour from the third party. For individuals and fleets that suspect they may have been the victim of a crash-for-cash scheme, report this to the police at the time and to their own Cheatline service.

Early identification of fraud can save companies significant amounts of money, stop fraudsters committing repeated scams and help authorities bring the criminals to justice.

Invest in dashcams, vehicle tracking devices and telematics

Finally, the use of technology can be instrumental in helping fraud investigators establish how the collision happened.

Any driver can invest in these technologies, and a fleet manager who suspects they may have been targeted by a staged collision can use telematics data to instantly verify whether the damage happened at the time and location reported by the claimant.

It is important not to assume telematics is a silver bullet, however. While modern vehicle tracking devices collect a vast amount of information, making sense of this data takes time and expertise.

For this reason, individuals and fleet managers hoping to stem the tide of fraudulent motor insurance claims and crash-for-cash scams should ensure they also have specialist vehicle crime investigators on their side.

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