Crash For Cash Explained

31st August, 2023, in Car Hire Help

We have all seen news stories about insurance scams across a vast array of industries. Scams where innocent people are exploited for others to gain substantial sums of cash.

One such example is the crash for cash scam. A scam where unscrupulous drivers cause untold emotional, financial and potentially even physical damage.

What is crash for cash?

Crash for cash is the term used for the insurance scam where drivers stage accidents in order to profit from fraudulent insurance claims.

The nature of the scams varies. They could be as severe as drivers slamming on brakes at junctions and roundabouts, causing vehicles to crash into one another but can also be as simple as fabricating the existence of an accident for financial gain.

What are the common crash for cash scams?

There are commonly three types of crash-for-cash scams that con artists try to put into place. Each causes damage on varying levels.

The most common crash for cash scams are:

  • Ghost accidents: These are the accidents that don’t actually happen. The ones where the criminals submit completely false accident reports to insurance companies in the hope of claiming a payout.
  • Staged accidents: This form of crash for cash is where those committing the fraud crash their own vehicles together or stage damage from an actual crash then submit a claim.
  • Induced accidents: These are perhaps the most damaging kind. The immoral and criminal driver decides to deliberately incite a crash by causing the driver behind to crash into them. This can cause not only significant injury and financial distress but could also prove fatal.

Who do crash for cash fraudsters target?

In most cases, those committing the offence look to exploit drivers who are driving under pressure or those who could be to some degree, vulnerable. A report last year by Sky News explained that the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) had discovered that the gangs operating these schemes were constantly travelling to areas away from popular accident hotspots to exploit drivers less familiar with the scam.

This means more people are put at risk, and no matter how confident a driver you are, you could easily be next.

Putting it simply, these criminals will target anybody they believe they can exploit. Motorists who abide by the rules and drive safely are just as much in the sight of the fraudsters as anyone else so it is important to remain attentive on the road to road users who may be looking to cause any form of accident.

How does a crash for cash scam work?

We have already established the three common types of crash for cash scams above but how do they work to ensure that the criminal claimant can receive a fraudulent insurance payout?

Firstly, they plan what type of scam they wish to commit from the three types we mentioned earlier. The ghost accident, the staged accident, or the induced accident.

If proceeding with one that actually requires them to drive, they will establish an area where drivers could be more vulnerable. Areas where traffic can be much more stop/start or roads where speeds can suddenly require reducing quickly.

Once they have established a suitable location, the victim is often not picked for any particular reason, it can simply be a case of spotting an opportunity and taking it.

They then cause the accident and rely on false witness statements and evidence to help build their claim. They will use information that illustrates injury, loss of earnings, damage to their vehicle, hire car costs and any other associated costs. In some cases, the witness statements will be genuine. After all, to some eyewitnesses, the innocent driver is actually the one who instigated the accident in the first place.

What is the payout for a crash for cash scam?

Should the criminal make a successful claim, they can see payouts ranging from just a few hundred pounds up to well over £50,000. This can have damaging consequences for the driver who is believed to have caused the accident with a rise in premiums, a negative effect on their no-claims bonus and of course, the emotional distress that the whole situation brings on them.

How to prove crash for cash

A crash for cash accident is created to make you seem like the cause of the accident. You may even doubt yourself a little after one has happened and think you may have been in some way to blame. However, the fraudster wants you to think like that. That way it is way easier for them to claim the cash they believe is theirs.

If you have any reason to doubt the cause of the accident and feel you were the victim of a crash for cash scam, do the following, It will help reduce the chances of the criminal being successful:

  • Check everyone in the car is safe
  • Keep yourself as calm as possible and refrain from admitting anything may have been your fault
  • Take photos of the scene of the accident and any damage to both vehicles. Include road markings, and signs if any are present.
  • Note if any CCTV is present. You will need to tell your insurance company about this. Recovered footage could prove vital.
  • Look for witnesses that are independent of the accident. If some appear wildly enthusiastic, think about whether they could also be involved in the scam.
  • Ask for the names of both the driver and the occupants of the other vehicle. Also, see if you can get their dates of birth. Some criminals try to be smart and use aliases, others may be cocky and use their real identity, confident that the staging of the accident only points to you as a guilty party.
  • Count how many people were in the car but do not take pictures of them unless they happen to appear in the pictures you take of the vehicle after the crash.
  • Call the emergency services.
  • Notify your insurers of everything and let them know if you think the accident was a crash for cash scam.
  • Then call the IFB on 0800 422 0421. It is a confidential service and works alongside the police to identify those committing these crimes.

Also, note driver and passenger behaviours. If after an accident they appear relatively unphased or seem to be exaggerating things, it could be a sign that all is not what it seems. Sometimes drivers also hand over pre-written insurance information. This odd behaviour almost certainly means they had an accident in mind when they set out!

How to prevent a crash for cash accident

In many cases, you may not even be aware of the accident being prepared around you. The criminals aim to make you look guilty through your bad driving. Even when you are driving perfectly safely and following the law. To avoid this there are a few steps you can put into place that could keep you and other road users safe.

  • Always allow for plenty of space between you and the car in front of you
  • Focus on the road. Anything that can be used by the criminals to prove you are at fault will be exploited as much as possible.
  • Look ahead of the car in front of you. Sometimes these scams involve more than one car. If you see inconsistent driving up ahead, it could be part of the scam.
  • Invest in some forward-facing cameras. It can be an expense you don’t want but one that could save you money in the future.
  • Investigate the possibility of telematics data. Information provided by these systems highlights driver behaviour, vehicle location and much more. All useful when proving your innocence in such circumstances.

Cash for crash hotspots

The IFB have assessed many cash for crash cases and identified several areas where this crime seems to be more prominent. Birmingham, London, Manchester, Luton, Bradford and Walsall are key locations for the scammers to operate but over the past two years, more have been established as key target areas. These include:

  • Frome
  • Worksop
  • Milton Keynes
  • Nottingham
  • Leicester
  • Derby
  • Shrewsbury

Small villages are also becoming key target areas for these criminals. With less CCTV, a potentially older age group of drivers and smaller, tighter roads, it becomes an area of interest for criminals to exploit.

Keeping safe on the road is paramount no matter where you are in the world but it can be more confusing when driving in another country in a hire car. Criminals can often exploit this vulnerability and look to cause you untold problems when you are trying to enjoy your time away. Consider a holiday car excess insurance policy so you can remain protected from unexpected costs. Our team at Direct Car Hire Excess have years of experience in helping hire car drivers remain comprehensively covered from costly excess charges. With excess insurance for car hire in Europe as well as worldwide, no matter where you drive, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free quote!


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