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New Car Insurance Scam Sweeps Britain

car insurance scam Car insurance scams are nothing new to the UK or the insurance industry. A new type of car insurance scam is sweeping the UK right now, being dubbed as ‘flash-for-cash’. Put simply, this new scam involves the criminal flashing their headlights at a junction to signal the innocent party to drive on. However, when the victim sets off, the fraudster crashes into the other person on purpose. This scam is mainly targeted at vulnerable drivers, such as the elderly and women with children present in the vehicle. Similar to whiplash scams, this scam is costing the innocent insurer millions every year, bumping up premium payments by £50-£100 per annum. Flash-for-cash is a new variation of an already prevalent scam named ‘crash-for-cash’, where the criminal slams on the brakes for no reason, causing an innocent driver to slam into the back of their car. The Police have noted that these criminals are removing the bulbs in their brake lights so other drivers won’t know that they’re suddenly about to stop. Flash-for-cash is proving more difficult for insurers because it is harder to prove in court, usually boiling down to one party’s word against the other.

Each fake accident is a real cash-in for the criminals in a number of ways. First of all, fake whiplash claims are filed, sometimes for people that weren’t even in the car at the time of the accident. Loss of earnings claims can also be set up, as well as fake bills for repairs, replacement vehicle hire, recovery and vehicle storage. Detective Inspector Dave Hindmarsh from the Metropolitan Police is an expert at exposing these fraudsters. He said: “This kind of crime costs the industry a fortune and, as ever, it’s the honest, insurance-paying motorist who is footing the bill. The problem is a growing problem. Financially it costs insurers £392 million a year – that impacts on motorists as it’s an extra £50 to £100 on every person’s premium so that’s a financial cost. There are emotional costs as if you’re involved in a crash you could well lose your confidence, and if your passengers are children they may well become wary of being passengers in cars, and of course you may get injured or killed.”

The Asset Protection Unit (APU), a company which assists the police and various insurers with investigating fraud, are the issuers of the latest scam warning. APU’s Neil Thomas said: “The criminals pick on people who are not willing to put up a fight. Perhaps single females in the car with children in the back, perhaps doing the school run. Where they know there’s going to be no resistance, no real argument at the scene. The children are going to be upset.” The Highway Code states: “Flashing headlights. Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users. Never assume that flashing headlights is a signal inviting you to proceed. Use your own judgement and proceed carefully." Strictly speaking, motorists shouldn’t even react to these bait light flashes from the criminals. However, road users have developed their own rules and flashing your lights is seen as a polite gesture, which can be quite rare these days. The best plan of action is to keep raising awareness and hopefully lower the number of people who are falling for this scam over time.

James Savery, 19 August 2013

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