Crash For Cash Criminals Up Their Game
‘FLASH FOR CRASH’ TACTIC ON THE RISE
Now that the police and other motorists have gotten wise to the roundabout tactics of crash for cashers, the criminals have moved the goalposts, re-evaluated themselves and have found a new way to involve unsuspecting members of the public in their illegal money-making schemes. And it’s all to do with headlights.
What the crooks are doing now is enticing innocent drivers into the path of a deliberate collision at shops, car parks or fuel stations by lying in wait for victims and then flashing them with headlights so that the other drivers think that they are being allowed to proceed. The fraudster flashes their headlights then speeds up to ensure their car is hit side-on.
It seems that this has been going on for a while (at least from the start of the year) as police, insurers and the authorities begin to clamp down on the fraudsters’ traditional modus operandi of roundabout rear-end accidents – but now automotive anti-fraud investigation specialist, APU, has realised that the now harder-to-prove ‘flashing’ method has come into play.
It is the APU’s team of former-Police officers and forensic data investigators that dubbed this new method as ‘flash for crash,’ and blame is harder defend using this tactic as Neil Thomas, APU’s Director of Investigative Services and former Detective Inspector of West Midlands Police, explains: “It is yet another example of how criminal gangs are becoming more sophisticated and attempting to stay one step ahead of suspicion. The adoption of flashing headlights and beckoning the driver results in a ‘your word against mine’ situation when it comes to apportioning blame. By appearing to offer the right of way, the criminal simply continues his journey into a collision, holding the victim at fault for turning across him which, of course, cannot be denied under law.”
Every day, it is estimated that around 380 false insurance claims are made, costing the motor industry £1.7m a year and pushing up insurance premiums to the unsuspecting public.
Crash for Cash is just one way that these criminals are trapping the law-abiding driver, and causing heartache and worry for them and a stackload of cash for insurance companies.
Other methods have included engineering the more traditional rear-end shunt where criminals deliberately brake sharply in front of victims for no reason, often having removed brake lights so that the driver behind has less time to respond, thus being unable to avoid the accident.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau is currently investigating 49 gang rings that they believe are responsible for around £66m in false claims, and their detection rate is getting better. In the five years since it first started up, APU has been instrumental in the detection and conviction of some of the biggest motor fraud cases in the UK, including the sentencing of fraudster Masi Naqshbandi, who was jailed for seven years and three months for staging 260 fake accidents over a 15-month period, netting around £6.5 million in false insurance claims.
Britain’s top advanced driver, the IAM’s Peter Rodger, offers advice on how to avoid getting caught up in these scams, but is fully aware that the work of the criminals is getting more and more technological and sophisticated every day. Both he and APU’s Neil Thomas stress that driving with care should be utmost in the driver’s mind and that anticipation is the key. You should always look ahead and anticipate hazards, so you aren’t “cornered” into a crash you can’t avoid, and beware of anyone ‘flashing’ you. Ensure that the road is completely clear.
If you are involved in a crash that you feel could be a scam, Peter Rodger has some advice about that too.
If you’re suspicious, don’t raise your concerns about it at the scene but make sure that you keep careful notes about everything, including all vehicle damage on both sides, any witnesses, passengers in cars, the driver (description and words.) Try band take photos discreetly of all people there as well as damage – and if the emergency services get involved, tell them of your suspicions too. Remember that false whiplash claims are on the rise too!
Above all, Peter advises that you stay calm because you’ll need to swap details with other drivers whatever happens.
“Flash for cash scams are costing millions of pounds through our insurance premiums, and some are so reckless that they risk lives. Collisions are stressful and emotionally draining, but it’s important to be prepared in case you are involved in one. Make sure you drive carefully to minimise your chances of having to deal with a collision.”