You’re driving along, minding your own business, when a car suddenly appears in front of you and slams on its brakes.
Too late, you hit your own brakes, and watch in horror as you vehicle runs into the back of the car in front.
Next thing you’re being asked for your details, or more likely the aggrieved party offers to settle privately for cash.
It’s all part of the latest scam that has been identified in the UK and probably coming to a road near you in the not too distant future.
In this version fraudsters hide in the blind spot of the target vehicle, waiting to make their move.
It’s been dubbed Hide and Crash by anti-fraud experts at AX, a provider of intelligent vehicle protection and management technologies for the automotive and insurance industries.
It was AX that exposed ‘flash for crash’ scams, where a fraudster flashes their headlights, inviting innocent drivers to pull out of a junction before accelerating to cause a collision.
‘Crash for cash’ is a problem that costs the UK industry £340 million annually, leading to inflated premiums for motorists and businesses.
The latest ‘hide and crash’ trend was noticed when AX detected several suspicious claims displaying near identical characteristics.
“This new tactic is a dangerous progression of the existing ‘slam on’ approach,” explained Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at AX.
“Criminals can take cover in a driver’s blind spot, wait for the ideal moment, then accelerate and move into their pathway before slamming on the brakes.”
Other trends saw ‘flash for crash’ crop-up regularly as well as the long-established round-about ‘slam on’.
AX lists top-5 most common tactics currently used by fraudsters to induce accidents and make bogus insurance claims.
Top-5 tactics used to induce accidents
Traditional ‘slam on’ accidents – a vehicle in front intentionally slams on the brakes to catch out the driver behind
Flash for crash – when a driver flashes their lights to beckon another vehicle forward but then drives into them
Crash for ready cash – a third-party requests cash to fix their vehicle after they have induced a collision
Hide and crash – a vehicle ‘hides’ in the blind spot of another car before moving in front and braking hard
Hire and crash – where a criminal hires a car and stages an accident with another vehicle, usually someone they know
Thomas added: “Detecting new methods deployed by gangs is notoriously difficult and without video evidence, it is often difficult to prove who was really at fault.
“Intelligence-sharing amongst insurers and the authorities can help, nevertheless drivers should always be vigilant. Collectively, we can minimise the impact of these increasingly sophisticated criminals.”
Roundabouts were the most common locations seen for suspected crash-for-cash scams, while busy motorways and urban areas with frequent sets of traffic lights are also considered danger spots.
Ultimately, fraudsters look for places where it is unlikely and often unsafe for potential witnesses to stop.
Major Roundabouts – motorists can be distracted by multiple road signs and signals
Small out-of-town roundabouts – fraudsters have an easy escape route and no CCTV
Busy motorways – e.g. ‘Hide and crash’ incidents
Traffic lights – potential witnesses will be reluctant to stop and help
Turning from a side road
The motor fraud investigation team at AX – formerly known as APU Ltd – was established ten years ago to combine technology with human intelligence.
Staffed by former Police officers and forensic data analysts, AX has been successful in facilitating numerous motor fraud prosecutions in the UK thanks to its covert technology and in-vehicle connected devices.
In terms of motorists protecting themselves from fraudulent claims, Thomas advises: “It is hard to avoid being a victim of a staged accident but watch for passengers looking back, and do not interpret flashing headlights as an automatic invitation to pull out of a side road.
“In the event of an accident, drivers should take a few simple steps to guard against fraud.
“Count the number of occupants and ask for names. Then be sure to note the registration plates of the other vehicles.
“This is critical information which is easy to miss in heat of the moment but can help insurers and fraud experts build up a true picture of events.”
Top tips for motorists involved in an accident
Count number of occupants
Ask for all names of occupants
Note registration plate of other vehicle(s)
Take photographs of the cars before they are moved
Look for independent witnesses or CCTV or use dashcam footage