Fraud Fighters Warn Of Spike In 'Crash-For-Cash' Scams

By Lucia Osborne-Crowley
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Law360, London (May 18, 2020, 11:56 AM BST) -- Scammers seeking to make money by deliberately causing car crashes will be emboldened as the COVID-19 lockdown eases in England and motorists return to the road, an insurance fraud body has warned.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau, a not-for-profit body that investigates crime on behalf of the sector, said Friday that so-called crash for cash scammers — who cause accidents and persuade the other motorist that they are at fault — may surge as drivers get back behind the wheel as restrictions are relaxed.

"We've seen many innocent motorists seriously injured and, sadly, in some cases killed, all because callous fraudsters want to make some money," Stephen Dalton, head of intelligence and investigations at the bureau, said. "The lockdown made it harder for 'crash for cash' scammers to facilitate their crime, so after weeks of reduced activity, we have serious concerns they will return in a big burst."

The IFB estimates that up to 10% of personal injury claims are fraudulent crash for cash claims. The scams cost the sector £340 million ($411 million) each year.

The body said the fraudsters often attempt to cause crashes by hitting their brakes at busy junctions in the hope that the driver behind them will not be able to stop in time.

Sometimes scammers will carry out plots using two vehicles, with one driver deliberately behaving erratically and fleeing the scene after the crash to draw suspicion away from the driver directly in front of the car that could not stop in time.

Such crooks also trick drivers by giving way to them in busy intersections and then deliberately driving into them.

The IFB urged motorists to look out for the warning signs and to report any cases of car insurance fraud they think they may have been involved in.

The body said there was a slump in the scams the strict lockdown measures put in place by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19 have kept drivers off the road.

But, as the restrictions begin to ease, with some sports activities and outdoor meetings being reintroduced, the IFB said it expects the number of cases to surge. This will be compounded by the fact that many drivers have taken significant time out of driving and could feel less confident behind the wheel.

Police are cracking down on motor fraud. City of London police issued official cautions to eight Britons in September after they made false claims that totaled nearly £50,000.

The incidence of insurance fraud is rising despite the fact that the industry spends around £250 million a year to crack down on it, the Association of British Insurers said in August.

Insurers were conned out of £1.83 billion through 469,000 fraudulent insurance claims and dishonest applications in 2018, the trade group said. That's a 3% increase on the 457,000 dishonest claims handled in 2017.

Lawmakers introduced reforms in the Civil Liability Bill to try to clamp down on the culture of bogus claims for neck injuries in car crashes.

--Additional reporting by Najiyya Budaly and Christopher Crosby.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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