According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), since 1999 there have been around 22,500 staged or purposely induced accidents. This has cost the industry an estimated £200 million a year - equivalent to £50 added onto every motor insurance policy across the UK. But a YouGov poll apparently found that a whopping 41% of people are unaware the problem even exists.
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Some examples of classic scams are:
The Rear-end Shunt: where the car in front slows down, waiting until you get really close before suddenly slamming on their brakes. It is often impossible to avoid crashing into them at this point. Some fraudsters even disable their brake lights before setting off in the morning to ensure you have no warning that the car in front of you is braking at all - until it is too late.
This one developed in to:
The Decoy Rear-end Shunt: where the fraudster gets a friend to wait in a side street and pull out as you both approach. This gives the fraudster an excuse to have slammed on their brakes should the police be suspicious. If you don't hit them, they will just keep repeating the process until someone does.
The Helpful Wave? It may sound like a work of fiction, but some scammers have apparently resorted to waving in or flashing their lights at a car waiting to turn across their lane. They do not actually stop to let the car across, though. They crash in to it and then deny having waved or flashed their lights at all. We do not have first hand reports of this one, so let us know if it has happened to you.
The actual circumstances of the accident are not the complete con either. Other strategies to boost the amount re-couped from such ventures include:
Non-existent passengers (even though you could have sworn there were only two people in the other car, four people seem to be making a whiplash claim against you some weeks later)
Additional Damage (claims for damage to parts of the fraudster's car that you did not see damaged immediately after the incident)
Loss of earnings (although the car you hit was a rust-bucket, your insurer is presented with the fraudster's "wage slips" showing he earns a considerable amount of money ... working for a friend of his ...)
Thanks to the case of Scott vs. Walker in 1974, the police will generally drop the blame on any vehicle that hits another from behind. No matter what the circumstances. To help train you to be aware out on the roads, we set up the Street Scammer game to test you.
Whilst there is not much you can do to prevent a fraudster causing an accident, you need to state your suspicions to the police and your insurer early on. Also, let witnesses, witnesses, witnesses be your motto. Ask anyone you see for their details. Although it may seem straightforward at the time, when the third party's story suddenly changes three months in to the claim - you'll wish you'd taken the name and phone number of that nice old man that came to check you were okay.