Beware – cash for crash scams can cost you a fortune. Top 10 hotspots revealed

As Birmingham is given the dubious honour of becoming Britain’s ‘crash-for-cash’ capital, we look at how this scam could affect you, and reveal the top tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

crash-for-cashYou’d better take extra care when driving around Birmingham. A recent survey by insurance giant Aviva has revealed that a quarter of all ‘deliberate crash’ insurance scams take place in the West Midlands city.

But the problem isn’t limited to Birmingham. In fact, Aviva alone recorded more than 3,000 deliberate crash-for-cash frauds in 2015. That equates to one every three hours. Just for claims handled by Aviva…

The top 10 hotspots


So what is a crash-for-cash scam?

These fall into two basic categories – so-called induced accidents and ‘staged’ crashes.

Induced accidents

These are the most frustrating form of crash scam for innocent motorists, where fraudulent claimants deliberately cause accidents with other drivers in order to claim compensation for whiplash and other injuries. The number of these fell by 2% in 2015 compared with the record high of the previous year.

Staged accidents

The other type of issue is ‘staged accidents’. These are less dangerous than claiming from innocent motorists, as they involve pre-damaged cars set up to look as if there’s been a crash.

Conversely, the number of these bogus accidents detected by Aviva fell by 40%, as tougher fraud prevention tools at the point of sale have stopped fraudsters accessing Aviva’s products.

The insurance industry’s view

Tom Gardiner, Aviva’s Head of Fraud, said: “We remain very concerned that fraudsters continue to put their own greed ahead of innocent motorists’ safety. Our figures show induced accidents now account for nearly half of all organised motor fraud we detect.

“Crash for cash does not just push up premiums for genuine customers, it puts innocent motorists at risk. It is also a significant drain on scarce public resources such as ambulance, police and A&E time, all of which are wasted on these entirely bogus claims. The number of whiplash claims is a problem unique to the UK and needs urgent reform.”

“We support the proposals outlined by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement, which included Aviva’s call for removing compensation from minor, short-term injuries. We believe this will end the gravy train for fraudsters, and we have pledged to pass 100% of the savings from the reforms on to our customers.”

How to protect yourself from the crash-scammers

  • Stay alert: Pay attention to your driving and the cars/traffic around you.
  • Keep your distance: Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • Roundabouts and slip roads: fraudsters target roundabouts and slip roads to induce accidents; be especially vigilant in these areas, allowing plenty of space.
  • Two cars ahead: there are frequently two cars involved in inducing an accident – the car directly in front and the car in front of that car as well. Both may drive erratically. Allow plenty of space between you and the two cars in front.
  • Check the brake lights: A common trait in many vehicles involved in ‘crash for cash’ is failure of the vehicle’s brake lights. If you notice the car in front brakes and their lights don’t work, remain cautious.
  • Warning signs: Is the car in front moving particularly slowly or is it slowing down and speeding up for no apparent reason?
  • Passenger Behaviour: Are the passengers in the vehicle in front turning around and looking at you for no reason? They may be looking for a chance to induce an accident.
  • Collision Damage: Does the car in front look like it has been in other accidents – especially showing damage to its rear?

What to do if you are in an accident and are suspicious it may be fraudulent:

  • Stay calm. Don’t argue with the driver of the other vehicle and/or their passengers.
  • Call the Police immediately while you are still at the scene of the accident, inform them you suspect the accident is a crash for cash scam and ask them to attend the scene.
  • Don’t admit liability to the other driver, passenger or anyone else that appears to be connected to them at the scene of the accident. Don’t agree to liability in writing, either.
  • Capture as much information as possible at the scene (the make, model and registration number of the other vehicle, time, date, location and weather conditions at the time of the accident, names and addresses of the driver or passengers of the other car.
  • Take pictures or video, capturing any damage (or lack thereof) to the other vehicle and the scene of the accident.
  • Contact your insurer immediately after the accident to advise them of your suspicions and to provide them with all the information you have recorded. Keep a record of the information you supply to your insurer in case it is needed in the future.

Consumer Champion