Beware the crash con

Tips to help you avoid a 'crash for cash' scenario.
Tips to help you avoid a 'crash for cash' scenario.

Being involved in a car crash is a terrible and upsetting experience — but imagine also discovering that the people in the other vehicle had deliberately staged the “accident” so that you ran into them.

A major insurer has uncovered a huge upswing in cases just like this.

Aviva, which insures around one in 10 cars in the UK, saw a 51% increase last year in the number of “crash for cash” scams detected.

It uncovered around 820 staged accidents in 2013, leading to some 2,200 fraudulent personal injury claims.

These crashes are often organised by gangs, so that they can then go on to rake in cash by making exaggerated insurance claims for injuries such as whiplash.

In road traffic accidents where one vehicle is hit by another, the driver of the car behind is often deemed to be the one at fault.

So in a crash for cash accident, a car may brake without warning in front of an innocent driver, leaving them likely to run into the car ahead.

Fraudsters have even gone as far as to disconnect their brake lights in order to give the car behind even less chance of stopping.

It is thought that growing industry efforts to clamp down on bogus whiplash claims for accidents which never happened and have been completely made up are prompting gangs to stage more real-life crashes so they will have more “evidence” to back up their claims.

Cases like these not only pose a physical danger to the innocent victims who get caught up in them, they also have serious financial consequences.

And as well as potentially having an impact on the premium of the innocent driver who has been caught up in the scam, crash for cash cases eventually filter through to increase the costs of everyone’s insurance.

According to industry estimates, frauds of all types add around £50 to the cost of a typical car insurance premium.

Another particularly unpleasant feature to crash for cash scams is that fraudsters will target drivers who they think won’t kick up too much fuss — which could include anyone from mums with young children in the back of the car to older people.

They will also home in on well-kept vehicles which look like they’re likely to be insured, so if your car is your pride and joy, this could also make you a target.

Hopefully, you will never find yourself caught up in an unfortunate situation like this, but if you do, here are some tips from Aviva which could help:

Firstly, stay alert when you’re driving and always keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front.

Does the car in front look like it has been in other accidents, especially showing damage to the rear?

If you notice that the brake lights aren’t working on the car in front, remain cautious and perhaps try to distance your car from theirs.

Is the driver involved behaving oddly? Are they speeding up and slowing down for no apparent reason? If they and/or any passengers also appear to be focusing on the back of the vehicle, this could be another sign that they’re looking for an opportunity to stage an accident.

If you are caught up in an accident which you suspect might be fraudulent, try to stay calm and not get involved in an argument with the people in the other vehicle.

Call the police immediately, tell them your suspicions and ask them to attend the scene.

Capture as much information about the incident as you can, including details about the vehicle, the passengers and whether anyone, or for that matter, no one was complaining that they were injured.

Take down the names and contact details of any independent witnesses who were at the scene.

Contact your insurer as soon as you can after the accident and tell them what your suspicions are. Give them all the information you have recorded and keep your own record of this, just in case it’s needed in future.