Motor fraudsters have adopted a dangerous new tactic to trap unsuspecting drivers in ‘crash-for-cash’ scams according to anti-fraud experts at AX, the provider of intelligent vehicle protection and management technologies for the automotive and insurance industries.
Dubbed ‘hide and crash’, the latest method used is an evolution of previous tactics and involves a fraudster hiding in a driver’s blind-spot before quickly moving in front to ‘slam on’ the brakes.
The warning from AX, which exposed the ‘flash for crash’ scams – where a fraudster will flash their headlights to invite an innocent driver to pull out of a junction before accelerating to cause a collision – comes as it names the top-5 most common tactics currently used by fraudsters to induce accidents and make bogus insurance claims.
‘Crash for cash’ is a problem that costs the industry £340 million annually*, leading to inflated premiums for motorists and businesses.
The latest ‘hide and crash’ trend was noticed when AX detected several suspicious claims displaying near identical characteristics.
“This new tactic is a dangerous progression of the existing ‘slam on’ approach,” explained Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at AX. “Criminals can take cover in a driver’s blind spot, wait for the ideal moment, then accelerate and move into their pathway before slamming on the brakes.”
Other trends saw ‘flash for crash’ crop-up regularly as well as the long-established round-about ‘slam on’.
TOP-5 TACTICS USED TO INDUCE ACCIDENTS
|1||Traditional ‘slam on’ accidents – a vehicle in front intentionally slams on the brakes to catch out the driver behind|
|2||Flash for crash – when a driver flashes their lights to beckon another vehicle forward but then drives into them|
|3||Crash for ready cash – a third-party requests cash to fix their vehicle after they have induced a collision|
|4||Hide and crash – a vehicle ‘hides’ in the blind spot of another car before moving in front and braking hard|
|5||Hire and crash – where a criminal hires a car and stages an accident with another vehicle, usually someone they know|
AX helps businesses and drivers manage and protect their vehicles, providing accident assistance services including recovery, repair and replacement vehicles.
Thomas added: “Detecting new methods deployed by gangs is notoriously difficult and without video evidence, it is often difficult to prove who was really at fault. Intelligence-sharing amongst insurers and the authorities can help, nevertheless drivers should always be vigilant. Collectively, we can minimise the impact of these increasingly sophisticated criminals.”
Roundabouts were the most common locations seen for suspected crash-for-cash scams, while busy motorways and urban areas with frequent sets of traffic lights are also considered danger spots. Ultimately, fraudsters look for places where it is unlikely and often unsafe for potential witnesses to stop.
TOP-5 LOCATIONS FAVOURED BY FRAUDSTERS
|1||Major Roundabouts – motorists can be distracted by multiple road signs and signals***|
|2||Small out-of-town roundabouts – fraudsters have an easy escape route and no CCTV ****|
|3||Busy motorways – e.g. ‘Hide and crash’ incidents|
|4||Traffic lights – potential witnesses will be reluctant to stop and help|
|5||Turning from a side road*****|
The motor fraud investigation team at AX – formerly known as APU Ltd – was established ten years ago to combine technology with human intelligence. Staffed by former Police officers and forensic data analysts, AX has been successful in facilitating numerous motor fraud prosecutions in the UK thanks to its covert technology and in-vehicle connected devices.
In terms of motorists protecting themselves from fraudulent claims, Thomas advises: “It is hard to avoid being a victim of a staged accident but watch for passengers looking back, and do not interpret flashing headlights as an automatic invitation to pull out of a side road.
“In the event of an accident, drivers should take a few simple steps to guard against fraud. Count the number of occupants and ask for names. Then be sure to note the registration plates of the other vehicles. This is critical information which is easy to miss in heat of the moment but can help insurers and fraud experts build up a true picture of events.”
TOP TIPS FOR MOTORISTS INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT
|1||Count number of occupants|
|2||Ask for all names of occupants|
|3||Note registration plate of other vehicle(s)|
|4||Take photographs of the cars before they are moved|
|5||Look for independent witnesses or CCTV or use dashcam footage|
|6||Keep safe in case others become aggressive|
* ‘Crash for cash’ is a problem that costs the industry £340 million annually, according to Cifas, the fraud and financial crime specialist
** Where fraudsters hire a car and stage an RTC with a friend in a second vehicle. The driver of the hire car then fully accepts liability so the third party (their friend(s)) can obtain an insurance pay-out; either personal injury or damage repair
*** One example of this is a gang in Derby swerving dangerously to cause incidents with lone and elderly drivers
**** The absence of CCTV and witnesses mean it can be perfect for Crash for Ready Cash incidents
***** These can be a perfect opportunity for Flash for cash incidents