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How to protect yourself from the crash-for-cash epidemic

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Crash-for-cash fraud has been one of the fastest-growing issues facing drivers over recent years. But motorists are fighting back by using new technology to prove their innocence.

Two cars involved in crashDrivers are being advised to consider installing some form of in-car recording system to prevent themselves falling victim to the growing number of fake insurance claims and deliberately staged crashes in the UK.

This warning follows yet more reports of organised “crash-for-cash” gangs operating in Britain.

Overstated claims

Crash-for-cash scams involve innocent motorists being implicated in vehicle collisions, even though they have done little or nothing wrong.

For example, a fraudster might for no reason jump on his brakes, causing the car behind to run into him.

The intention is then to claim off the victim’s insurance but overstate the severity of any injuries or damage.

A variation of this con is “flash for cash”, where the criminal flashes their headlights to let a vehicle come out of a junction or join a queue, but then deliberately drives into them.

In each case, the victim is likely to be automatically found at fault by insurance investigators unless extra evidence can be provided.

Rise of dashcams

Earlier this month, a London-based crash-for-cash gang was ordered to pay £150,000 back to insurers by the High Court following a string of staged accidents in 2010 and 2011.

Over recent years, a growing number of drivers in the UK have invested in dashboard-mounted cameras to ensure they have a record of any collisions or other incidents.

A small number of insurers now offer discounts for customers who have such dashcams fitted.

The increasing popularity of telematics policies can also be a boon for motorists who wish to provide evidence of their innocence in car crashes.

Another gang foiled

Telematics insurance involves having a black-box devices fitted to your car to provide a permanent record of your speed, acceleration, braking and cornering.

The idea is that higher-risk customers such as young people can help cut their premiums by demonstrating over time that they are sensible drivers.

Telematics insurer Insure the Box has just revealed that its technology helped it bring another crash-for-cash gang – some of whom were the firm’s customers – to justice.

The company said that the fraud came to light when discrepancies between the claimants’ accounts of the accidents and the telematics data came to light.

‘Not worth the risk’

Insure the Box spokesman Adrian Steele said: “We were able to put together a huge amount of evidence to present in court, the strongest being the data provided by the telematics technology installed in the insured vehicles.

“This case provides a strong message to would-be fraudsters that it is simply not worth the risk. 

“It also underlines the veracity of telematics data to provide the expert evidence necessary to defeat fraudsters.”

But drivers no longer have to sign up for a telematics insurance policy to benefit from this kind of analysis.

Demonstrate your innocence

A new service called Smartdriverclub is offering a “smartplug” which can be installed in cars manufactured any time from 2008.

The device monitors driving behaviour in the same way as a telematics box, but also automatically contacts emergency services in the event of an accident and provides diagnostic information about potential faults in the vehicle.

It costs subscribers £6.60 a month.

Smartdriverclub’s CEO Penny Searles said: “The driving data that is part and parcel of the benefits package means a motorist member could ask Smartdriverclub to provide data to their insurer to show they were forced to slam on the brakes in an attempt to avoid hitting another car in a contrived accident.”

She said it could also come to the rescue of a driver whose car has been hit while parked can prove to their insurer that they were not driving at the time of the collision.

“We want motorists to protect themselves from contrived accidents and the impact this can have on their insurance premiums,” Searles added.

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