Parts of Birmingham are the top “crash for cash” hotspots in the UK, analysis of the scams has found.
Postcodes in Bradford, Blackburn, Romford, Wakefield, Leeds, Manchester, High Wycombe, London and Luton are also among the worst areas affected, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) said.
Crash for cash is a common insurance scam which involves fraudsters inventing or deliberately causing dangerous road traffic collisions, often involving innocent people, in a bid to claim compensation.
The IFB helps insurers and the police to fight fraud. It acts as a central hub for sharing insurance fraud data and intelligence, helping to detect and disrupt organised fraud networks.
The IFB said it hoped that by pinpointing crash for cash hotspots, people would be encouraged to be vigilant as more drivers start to take to the roads.
IFB analysis of 2.7 million motor insurance claims made across the UK in between the start of October 2019 and the end of 2020 identified more than 170,000 claims which could be linked to suspected crash for cash networks.
IFB investigations have found single gangs can be behind thousands of orchestrated collisions in some areas, with the combined value of their fraudulent claims running into the millions.
In the top hotspot area of Birmingham, the IFB said it had recently worked with City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) to convict a serial crash for cash fraudster who had spent more than two years luring innocent people into car crashes.
Ben Fletcher, director at the IFB, said: “Crash for cash fraudsters bring devastation to countless victims and increase motor insurance costs for us all.
“The IFB’s hotspots analysis is a stark reminder that although great strides have been taken in tackling the problem, these car crash scams are all too common.
“As traffic levels return to normal following the national lockdown, crash for cash fraudsters may look to make up for lost time. It is hoped that by shining a spotlight on the issue we will encourage road users to be alert and report any suspicious activity to the IFB’s Cheatline on 0800 422 0421.”
The IFB highlighted the case of one crash for cash victim, who was an LV= General Insurance customer. A court case was successfully fought after an attempt to claim for compensation.
He said: “At the time I was using a dashcam which provided crucial evidence for the case, so that would be my top tip to anyone. I was lucky to get support and justice, but others might not be so fortunate, so creating more awareness for the public is important.”
James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “These criminal gangs are often highly organised and put lives at risk. The amounts that they fraudulently claim can be huge, and can impact on the motor premiums paid by honest motorists.
“With more vehicles on the roads as we emerge from the pandemic restrictions, so the potential targets for these criminals increases. This is why it is so important for all motorists to be on their guard – if you suspect an incident is suspicious do not put yourself at risk, but report your suspicions to the IFB’s confidential Cheatline.”
Detective Chief Inspector Edelle Michaels, Head of the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said: “We have seen time and time again that crash for cash fraudsters do not care about the safety of their victims, with a trio even targeting a pregnant woman in 2019.”
Here are the top crash for cash postcodes in the UK and the city or town they are in, according to the IFB:
1. B25 Birmingham
2. B34 Birmingham
3. B8 Birmingham
4. BD7 Bradford
5. BD3 Bradford
6. WS1 Walsall
7. BB9 Blackburn
8. BD8 Bradford
9. B27 Birmingham
10. RM18 Romford
11. B33 Birmingham
12. WF13 Wakefield
13. BD15 Bradford
14. OL8 Oldham
15. HX1 Halifax
16. M8 Manchester
17. LS8 Leeds
18. N9 North London
19. WF16 Wakefield
20. LU3 Luton
21. WS2 Walsall
22. BD2 Bradford
23. BD5 Bradford
24. B11 Birmingham
25. HP12 High Wycombe
26. B28 Birmingham
27. RM8 Romford
28. LU4 Luton
29. IG3 Ilford
30. BD9 Bradford
And here are some tips for avoiding crash for cash incidents from the IFB:
– Know what to look out for
Induced car collisions are often caused by fraudsters who slam on their brakes on busy junctions and roundabouts. Some have an accomplice who drives erratically in front of them, so they can divert suspicions by blaming the driver in front.
There have also been rising reports of innocent drivers being crashed into by fraudsters after being encouraged to pull out of side roads, or when creeping forward for a better view.
– Keep a good distance
Always keep a good distance from the vehicle in front. According to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) the time required to safely stop is two seconds in dry conditions, four seconds in wet conditions and 20 seconds in icy or snowy conditions.
– Stay alert
Look for any potential hazards including unusual driving behaviour.
Focus on vehicles and not just their lights, as fraudsters often disable brake lights.
If other drivers or their passengers are behaving suspiciously, or the condition of their vehicle is poor, such as rear dents, keep back.
– Know the signs after a crash for cash
The driver or their passengers may appear unfazed after a collision. They may exaggerate injuries. Pre-written insurance information may be handed over.