‘Flash for crash’ tactic on the rise

Motorists are being warned about a dangerous new tactic being employed by criminals running ‘crash for cash’ fraud rings

Flashing headlights to entice innocent drivers into the path of a deliberate collision at junctions or whilst exiting fuel stations has emerged as a worrying trend since the turn of the year.

As Police, insurers and authorities clamp down on the traditional modus operandi of roundabout rear-end accidents, automotive anti-fraud investigation specialist, APU, has identified the new, more complex, method.

Dubbed ‘flash for crash’ by APU’s team of former-Police officers and forensic data investigators, the new tactic makes it harder for an innocent party to prove fault in the event of a legal dispute.

Some 380 false insurance claims are made daily, costing the motor industry £1.7m a year and pushing up insurance premiums.

‘It is yet another example of how criminal gangs are becoming more sophisticated and attempting to stay one step ahead of suspicion,’ said Neil Thomas, APU’s director of investigative services and former detective inspector of West Midlands Police.

‘The adoption of flashing headlights and beckoning the driver results in a ‘your word against mine’ situation when it comes to apportioning blame. By appearing to offer the right of way, the criminal simply continues his journey into a collision, holding the victim at fault for turning across him which, of course, cannot be denied under law.’

Each ‘accident’ can net the gangs tens of thousands of pounds in a variety of ways.

Firstly, they put in false personal injury claims for whiplash, sometimes including claims for people who were not even in the car. Added to that, they might charge the insurance company for loss of earnings,then they put in fake bills for vehicle storage, recovery, repairs, and replacement car hire.

In the more traditional rear-end shunt, criminals deliberately cause accidents by braking sharply in front of victims for no reason. They often also remove brake lights in order to reduce the victim’s reaction time.

The latest tactic sees cars lying in wait for victims to exit from shops, car parks or fuel stations. The fraudster flashes their headlights, offering the victim a right of way to join a main road, but then speeds up to ensure their car is hit side-on.

Detective inspector Dave Hindmarsh from the Metropolitan Police said: ‘The problem is a growing problem. Financially it costs insurers £392m a year – that impacts on motorists as it’s an extra £50 to £100 on every person’s premium so that’s a financial cost.

‘[There are] emotional costs [as] if you’re involved in a crash you could well lose your confidence, and if your passengers are children they may well become wary of being passengers in cars, and of course you may get injured or killed.’

The Insurance Fraud Bureau is currently investigating 49 rings, responsible for around £66m in false claims.  In the five years since its inception, APU has been instrumental in the successful conclusion of some of the biggest motor fraud cases ever prosecuted in the UK, including the sentencing of fraudster Masi Naqshbandi, who was jailed for seven years and three months for staging 260 fake accidents over a 15-month period, netting around £6.5 million in false insurance claims.

Neil said that, while motorists should be vigilant for any suspicious activity on the road, they should, at all times, maintain their concentration on the basic rules of safe driving.
APU is uniquely staffed by former Police officers and forensic data analysts who marry innovative technology and real-world police processes to identify fraudulent activity, protect insurer liability and help reduce insurance premiums.

Generally speaking, drivers are not meant to flash their lights to let people out onto busy roads. It is meant to be used as a warning.

From The Highway Code: ‘Flashing headlights. Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users. Never assume that flashing headlights is a signal inviting you to proceed. Use your own judgement and proceed carefully.’