News that ‘crash for cash’ insurance scams rose by 51 per cent in the UK last year shows a worrying trend in car insurance fraud.
According to the UK’s biggest motor insurers, Aviva, who insures one in ten vehicles in the country, at least 820 accidents were induced (or intentionally) caused.
Witnessing first-hand such a scam just weeks before I was about to sell my car, I can tell you it is not a pleasant experience. However, knowing how you can combat the fraudsters is half the battle.
Faked accidents led to around 2,200 fraudulent claims for personal injury last year Aviva confirmed, but little more than a community order is the usual punishment for such crimes.
Most of these accidents are caused deliberately by gangs who then put in claims for whiplash compensation. But what should you be looking out for?
What types of scam are there?
There are three types of ‘crash for cash’ scam to be aware of. They are: the induced accident, contrived accident (or ghost accident) and the staged accident.
The first and most common is the induced accident, which is caused deliberately by careless driving.
Whether it’s a vehicle in front slamming on the brakes too hard or pulling out sharply at a junction when it’s unsafe to do so, induced accidents can be prevented by ensuring you keep your distance at all times.
Knowing your speed and adjusting accordingly to the road used is particularly important too. At 20mph, three car lengths is a safe distance, whereas at 30mph and 40mph, six and nine lengths are advised.
Contrived accidents (‘ghost’ accidents)
A contrived accident is a faked accident entirely. The accident simply did not happen. Whilst these won’t directly affect you, they will indirectly.
It is the job of the insurance companies to spot these, investigate and interrogate. But, if these scams slip through the net, they do come at a cost to the good honest driver in their insurance premiums.
Another set of accidents primarily for the car insurance companies to sniff out are staged. These are those that are deliberately set-up between two or more drivers.
Multiple vehicles will intentionally crash in such a way that it looks like a ‘real’ accident and both will then try to claim on their individual insurance policies. Again, these types of accidents will indirectly cost you in your insurance premiums.
What else can I do to combat scammers?
Now you’re aware of what types of scam are out there, whether you’re a driver or a car insurance provider, find out how you can combat the scammers.
First and foremost, drive confidently and keep in mind what you were taught in your lessons. Do not drive when tired and keep the appropriate stopping distances to your speed, road and flow of traffic.
Whilst road confidence is key, newly passed inexperienced drivers may still become the target for induced accidents.
Fear not, systems like the dash-fitted camera can now help by recording journeys and providing irrefutable proof should you feel you’re a victim of a scam.
What to do if you suspect you’ve been hit by scam?
Fingers crossed it never happens to you. But, if in the unfortunate even you are in an accident, and you suspect a scam, here’s what you must do.
Never, ever admit liability if you think it smells like a scam. Stay as calm as you possibly can and make sure you and any other people are okay.
Take down as much information as you possibly can including: the driver’s name and contact number, any passengers’ names, the vehicle reg, make and model and insurance details.
If you have a smart phone, use it to take photos as evidence of any damage. These will be date and time-stamped as well as geo-tagged in the EXIF data so will stand up in a court of law.
You can now be safe in the comfort of knowing how to prevent an induced accident – with both confidence and technology – and also how to react when you suspect one. Don’t lose your cool, take plenty of pictures and note as much information as possible.
Have a safe journey.