Birmingham has been named as the UK’s ‘crash for cash’ capital, with scammers targeting innocent motorists with staged or fake accidents.
New research by insurance giant Aviva revealed that more than 3000 crash for cash claims were received in 2015; that's one every three hours. The insurer says one in four of those incidences occurred in Birmingham.
‘Crash for cash’ is a type of insurance fraud and can take several forms. According to the AA, the most common type of scam involves a vehicle braking sharply in front of another car, giving the innocent party very little chance of avoiding a crash. The scammers will then make fraudulent insurance claims for the repair and storage of their damaged vehicle, with the costs for such services vastly exaggerated.
The UK’s Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) estimates that crash for cash scams cost the UK around £336 million in 2015, with one in 10 personal injury claims linked to the scam.
While Birmingham saw the most crash for cash accidents in 2015, north London and east London secure second and third places respectively. Leeds, Harrow, north-west London, Bradford, Luton, Coventry and Oldham also feature on a list of the top 10 crash for cash hotspots.
Aviva says that while the number of staged vehicle accidents - where two damaged cars are brought together to make it look like an accident - dropped by 40% in 2015, one in nine whiplash claims it receives is still linked to fraud. It currently has more than 17,000 such claims under investigation.
The head of fraud at Aviva, Tom Gardiner, 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.”
It is estimated that the cost of insurance fraud raises the insurance premiums of every UK motorist by about £50 per year on average.
Speaking to the BBC, former police detective Neil Thomas - who now independently investigates fraudulent crashes - said Birmingham “is quite an obvious choice; it has been a hotspot for a number of years. There’s the high volume of traffic and also the road network”.
Thomas notes that fraudsters have a higher chance of a successful staged crash in big cities, because “there are going to be genuine traffic collisions. The fraudster can then get away with having staged incidents because people won’t notice them”.
A recent poll by the IFB revealed that 73% of the UK population believe that crash for cash scams are a big problem in this country, with seven in 10 motorists concerned about sustaining injuries in a deliberately caused accident.
Click here for What Car?'s full guide on crash for cash scams, including how to protect yourself if you're involved in an accident.