Beware Crash for Cash Scams

Towergate Insurance Motor Division have issued a list of top tips to help drivers avoid being targeted in 'crash for cash' scams. Towergate Insurance has found that staged accidents involving large vehicles are on the increase and are circulating advice to help client companies and their employees recognise the ploys of would-be criminal claimants.

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What is crash for cash?

These staged accidents force drivers to crash into the back of vehicles who have braked harshly and for no clear reason. There is no doubt that these accidents are being caused deliberately by people keen to claim on insurance from haulage companies and drivers need to be aware of the dangers - which could lead to personal injury as well as to substantial insurance claims.

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How does crash for cash work?

Scams used by today's criminals on the road include:

  • Approaching a junction, roundabout or intersection and then suddenly and needlessly jamming on the brakes leading to a rear end collision.
  • Using a no-stop' vehicle driven erratically by one gang member to cause a car driven by another gang member to break violently immediately in front of a vehicle leading to a rear-end collision.

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How can crash for cash affect me and my business?

After the accident, the criminals then claim compensation, often with the help of bogus witnesses and other parties that might be involved in the scam, for injuries, vehicle damage, replacement vehicle hire, loss of earnings and other costs. A successful scam can typically net the criminals a staggering £20,000 to £40,000. The consequences of staged accidents include the risk of serious injury, or even death. There is also the trauma of dealing with the consequences of an accident that, despite appearances, was not the fault of the driver. Lastly, it may also impact claims experience, leading to a consequent rise in insurance premiums and a negative effect on no claims bonuses.

According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau the 'crash for cash' gangs will claim for:

  • Compensation for fictitious personal injuries, to include claims from individuals who were not even in the fraudster's vehicle at the time of the accident.
  • The cost of recovering the fraudster's vehicle from the scene of the accident, even though it was actually driven away after the collision.
  • The cost of repairing the fraudster's vehicle, to include fictitious damage and damage that was already present on their vehicle from previous cash for crash activity.
  • Loss of earnings for the driver and the occupants of the fraudster's vehicle.
  • The cost of hiring an alternative vehicle until the fraudster's vehicle has been repaired, despite them driving their vehicle following the accident or having access to others.

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How to prevent crash for cash

So what can a driver do to combat the growing menace of 'crash for cash' scams?

Prevention is the best defence.

  1. Never tailgate - allow plenty of space between you and the car ahead.
  2. Look beyond the car in front. If you see erratic driving up ahead, slow down and be ready to brake hard - remember the intended victim might be you.
  3. Carry a pen and paper for taking notes and keep in the glove box a disposable camera or mobile phone for taking photos.
  4. Consider fitting forward-facing video cameras and announce their presence with stickers on the back of your vehicle. This isn't usually cheap but could prove invaluable.
  5. Telematics technology combined with forward facing cameras can help analyse an accident situation, help prove liability and avoid false escalation of a claim. Telematics data will record driver behaviour and vehicle location to help build a reliable picture of the mishap.
  6. Concentrate on your driving - if you are using your mobile phone or otherwise distracted this could work against you when trying to prove liability.

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What to do if you suspect being caught in a crash for cash scheme

If you are unlucky enough to be involved in what you suspect is a 'crash for cash' scam you need take certain steps, in addition to exchanging names, addresses, insurance details and so on.

  • Stay calm, think clearly and, as with any accident, don't admit liability.
  • If a 'no-stop' vehicle is involved, try to get its registration number - or at least a brief description - as it leaves the scene.
  • Call the police, but be careful - you're dealing with criminals. A call from your cab to your Transport Manager could in fact be a call to the police.
  • If there's the slightest indication of injury, call an ambulance as well - note how the car's occupants respond to the emergency services' involvement.
  • Use a disposable camera or your mobile phone to photograph the immediate scene, road markings and damage to the car involved.
  • Count the number of occupants in the car - the number can grow in the days following the accident.
  • Get the names, addresses and dates of birth of all the occupants and make a note of where they were sitting in the car.
  • Be very careful about photographing the car's occupants - though if the victims accidentally get into your shots, that might prove useful.
  • Look for independent witnesses - avoid anyone who's too enthusiastic, though, they might be in on the scam. Get their names and addresses.
  • Look for CCTV cameras in the vicinity and tell your insurer as soon as possible so there's a good chance of recovering footage.
  • Share your concerns with your insurers - they're as keen as you are to take action against 'crash for cash' criminals.
  • Call the confidential Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) Cheatline on 0800 422 0421 with any information you feel may be relevant - the IFB is working closely with local police forces to expose and crush the criminal networks involved.

Unfortunately, 'crash for cash' cases are a reality for road users. By staying vigilant and calm and taking heed of the advice above you may find that you can protect yourself against criminals who will go to any length to make some money.

This is a marketing article by Towergate Insurance.

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How HGV insurance from Towergate can help

As insurance brokers we have seen a large increase in claims made over the past few years. Motor insurance should provide motor drivers and owners with the peace of mind that their assets and assets of other drivers on the road are covered in the case of an accident.

Unfortunately, criminals have schemed new and dangerous ways to derive money from what they think is a victimless crime. This couldn't be further from the truth. These staged accidents can be very dangerous and also have contributed to the general increase in insurance premiums over the past few years.

Towergate hope to work with motorists to help put a stop to these schemes, keep insurance premiums down and make the road a safer place for the public at large. With many of the truck insurance policies available with Towergate Insurance, cameras are provided free* of charge to help prove liability and avoid escalated claims. Before your next renewal, find out if you are eligible for a camera by calling 0344 892 6273.

Facts and figures

  • Operations have to date resulted in over 486 arrests.
  • 119 criminal convictions.
  • Sentences including over 91 years' imprisonment.
  • Undetected insurance fraud costs the industry up to £2billion a year.
  • On average, adding an extra £44 a year to the insurance bill for every UK policyholder. In the last five years, road traffic accidents have decreased by 23% but claims have increased by 70%, according to the Department for Transport.
  • Britain is now the whiplash capital of Europe, with 1,500 claims made every day.

* Offer applies to customers insuring between one and five vehicles insured on our CTI scheme over 7.5T GVW. We will invoice you for the full cost of a camera including VAT at 20% and a corresponding discount equivalent to the net cost of the camera. You will be required to meet the cost of the VAT on the camera which you should be able to recover through your VAT registration.

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About the author

Chris North FCII, commercial vehicles insurance articles author Chris North FCII is a respected industry leader with over 40 years' experience, who has worked in the insurance industry in a variety of roles, accumulating a wealth of knowledge.He is currently Technical Manager for Towergate's motor division, providing expertise on all matters relating to motor fleet insurance, in particular haulage and self-drive hire fleets.