Q957: What is 'Cash for Crash', how can I avoid becoming a victim and what do I do if it happens to me?
In a 'cash for crash' incident, fraudsters deliberately stage or cause a road traffic collision 'accident' for the purpose of financial gain. There are basically three types of 'cash for crash' scam:
- Staged accidents
- Ghost accidents
- Induced accidents
In this type of accident two fraudsters deliberately stage an accident and crash into one another. Alternatively, they may just damage the vehicles with sledge hammers etc., make up an accident scenario and then claim on the insurance.
In this scam there is no actual accident or damage to vehicles, the accident is purely fabricated on paper.
In an induced incident the criminals will target an innocent motorist to make them out to be the 'at fault' driver in an accident. The induced incident can take many forms, some of the most common scenarios are explained below:
- The driver of the vehicle in front suddenly slams their brakes on and you run into the back of it – the driver then insists it's your fault. Some criminals will intentionally disconnect their brake lights so you don't know they're slowing down until it's too late.
- A driver may flash their headlights for you to pull out of a junction or wave you out of a junction, they then fail to let you out and you collide with them – they deny flashing their lights or inviting you to pull out.
- A car is stationary in the middle of a quiet road, often at night, you drive up to it wondering what's going on and stop, the driver of the vehicle then suddenly reverses into you and maintains you drove into them.
- A driver overtakes you and then suddenly swerves in front of you and brakes hard – you collide with the rear of their vehicle and they blame you.
The criminals who set up this type of scam may also be operating in a gang and have witness strategically placed on foot or even following in other vehicles, who will stop and say the other driver version of events is correct.
The criminals who cause these incidents usually target their victims and look for people who will be insured and who they perceive won't be too difficult for them to deal with e.g. the elderly, lone females or mums with children. Such incidents are very dangerous because a collision between two vehicles can have serious unforeseen consequences.
Spot the warning signs
- Be suspicious if a driver appears very calm after a collision and has all their details already written down on a piece of paper.
- Be suspicious of exaggerated claims e.g. after a very minor collision you receive information from your insurer in relation to high repair costs for damage to the other vehicle when only minor damage was caused, cost of hire cars/vehicle recovery when the other driver left the scene in their vehicle, injuries such a whiplash from a very minor impact, injury to passengers when the other driver was alone etc.
- Be aware of passengers or the driver in a vehicle you are following looking backwards/paying a lot of attention to your vehicle – they may be weighing up the best time to slam the brakes on and cause an accident.
- Beware of drivers driving extremely slowly or driving slowly and then suddenly speeding up.
- Don't assume that when a driver flashes their headlights, invites you to proceed or puts their indicator on that it's safe. Use your judgement and wait to make sure it's safe before you go.
What can you do
- Be vigilant – it's best to avoid such situations altogether.
- Don't follow vehicles too closely – leave plenty of room so that in the event of something unexpected happening you can stop safely.
- Try to think ahead and anticipate the actions of other drivers.
- Even if you suspect the accident you've been involved in is a scam, you must comply with your legal responsibilities – please see the link below:
- Be suspicious and don't get too close to vehicles that have stopped in the road for no reason.
- At the scene of an accident never admit liability for anything.
- Get the details of independent witnesses before they have chance to leave the scene but be aware they may be part of a gang that has set up the scam.
- Insist on calling the police – 101 for the non-emergency number, 999 if an emergency response is required.
- If you suspect a scam it's usually best not to challenge the driver of the other vehicle about it there and then.
- Obtain as much information as you can about the vehicle, passengers (if present), damage to vehicle, location, time, date, weather conditions, witnesses etc.
- If it is safe to do so, take photographs.
- Never agree to settle the matter informally.
- Tell you insurer what has occurred as soon as you can.
- If you suspect a scam, as well as contacting the police and your insurer, notify the Insurance Fraud Bureau via the link below or by calling the Cheatline on 0800 422 0421
The offences of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud carry a 10-year prison sentence.