‘Flash for crash’ tactic on the rise

by TTWpartners

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.’

Crash-for-cash scams are costing honest motorists nearly £400m a year in inflated insurance premiums

by TTWpartners

Article taken from – Mail Online – 22nd Nov 2012 – Read The full Article Here

- Car insurance fraud on the rise, says watchdog

- One in seven injury claims linked to organised crime   

- ’381 fraudulent claims a day’ says insurers’ body

The growing ‘Crash for Cash’ phenomenon sees criminal gangs deliberately causing crashes with innocent motorists and faking accidents across the UK to make fraudulent insurance claims.

The fraudsters then make money by submitting exaggerated claims for faked or staged accidents – including personal injury and loss of earnings, car hire and damage repair, even claims for bogus passengers.

The report by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) says about 40 ‘Crash for Cash’ gangs are currently under investigation across UK.

Each organised scam is worth on average £1.7million.

Its report called ‘Crash for Cash – putting the brakes on fraud’ says one in every seven personal injury claims – 69,500 in total – are linked  to organised crime.

It notes: ’These Cash for Cash fraudsters are gambling with the lives of UK motorists and costing honest policyholders nearly £400 million every year.’

‘The financial consequence is that every honest policyholder picks up the collective bill for the fraud through increased premiums’.

Across the UK’s 33 million motorists, the cash-for crash scams alone will add about £1.33 onto every policy – as part of more general £3billion a year insurance fraud which adds up to £50 a year to individual household premiums.

Worryingly, it cites research showing that 1 in 12 (8 per cent) people would actually consider taking part in a ‘Crash for Cash’ scam for financial gain.

The report says the most dangerous faked accident takes the form of a criminal’s car pulling in front and suddenly slamming on the brakes so that the innocent driver behind crashes into them in a rear  end shunt and becomes the ‘at fault’ driver. Fake witnesses then emerge from an accomplice’s car.

The report notes: ’Fraudsters often disable brake lights on their vehicles to give the unsuspecting victim no chance of stopping in time.’

But it adds: ’By targeting motorists on UK roads, fraudsters are gambling with the lives of innocent people.’

In another twist, two criminals may also deliberately crash their vehicles together – away from the public eye – and make a claim: ’Sometimes the fraudster may just take a sledgehammer to the  vehicles to mimic the effects of a genuine car crash.’

Or they may simply submit a ‘ghost accident’ submitting fabricated claims for accidents that never took place.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) was established by the insurance industry to clamp down on criminal gangs masterminding such abuses.

Its chairman David Neave said: ‘Fraudsters don’t just scam the insurance industry, they pick the pocket of every honest policyholder whose premiums increase to cover the costs of fraud.

‘But in ‘Crash for Cash’, insurance fraud poses even starker risks to society. Fraudsters motivated by greed are gambling with the lives of innocent motorists by deliberately causing crashes up and down the country.’

Mr Neave said: ’Criminal gangs organising multi-million pound ‘Crash for Cash’ scams are also using the profits of their fraud to fund other crimes plaguing our society, including illegal firearms, drug dealing and people trafficking.

‘Far from being a victimless crime, insurance fraud is serious and something of which we all need to be wary.’
Vigilant: Police have launched a crackdown on ‘Cash for Crash’ gangs

He said the IFB is currently coordinating 40 ‘live’ police operations across the UK, investigating and dismantling criminal gangs organising ‘Crash for Cash’ scams worth £66.6million in potential loses to insurers.

The ‘Crash for Cash’ report exposes the ‘murky’ methods of criminal gangs who actively recruit and coerce people from local communities to stage and induce crashes for cash payments.

It states: ‘The gangs’ webs of deceit run deep, with recovery and storage companies, motor engineers, car repair body shops, doctors and lawyers amongst the professionals being corrupted or duped into helping present genuine-looking claims to insurers.’

DCI Dave Wood, head of the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) – a dedicated police unit set up a year ago come January  to tackle insurance fraudsters across the UK – said criminal gangs  were seeking to ‘con insurers out of tens of thousands of pounds per incident’.

He said: ’Crash for Cash’ is a crime this country can ill-afford, putting innocent drivers at risk on our roads and leaving honest policyholders out of pocket.’

The report says 15 fraudulent insurance claims are uncovered in the UK every day.

Otto Thoresen, director general of the Association of British Insurer said: ’Each day insurers uncover 381 fraudulent insurance claims worth more than £2.7million.

‘That’s 2,670 fraudulent claims a week costing  honest customers £1billion a year.

‘But that is only the tip of the ice-berg. We estimate there is a further £2billion of undetected fraud – all of which is adding an extra £50 to the annual household insurance bill.’

City of London Police Assistant police Commissioner Ian Dyson said that so far this year: ’We have made close to 250 arrests on referrals from 50 different insurers.

‘From this we have secured seven convictions, including several custodial sentences, and at any one time have around £12million of insurance fraud under investigation.’

The report urges members of the public to blow the whistle on ‘by calling the Cheatline – powered by Crimestoppers – anonymously on 0800 422 0421.