Motorist William Smith was proud of his completely clean driving record before he crashed his car last year.
The 50-year-old was driving home after visiting his mother when his Ford Focus drove into the back of an Audi that had suddenly stopped at a roundabout in Nottinghamshire.
He admitted responsibility for the collision, after driving the rear vehicle, and paid hundreds of pounds for repairs – but it soon emerged that he had been hit by an attempted fraud.
Dashcam footage revealed that Mr. Smith was the victim of a suspected “crash for cash” incident – and there are now warnings that criminals behind the dangerous scams are targeting new areas across the UK.
The scams often involve scammers hitting the brakes at busy intersections and roundabouts so that the driver behind can not stop in time.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) says it has found evidence that gangs are increasingly traveling to areas away from the usual hotspots to cause collisions with motorists who are less familiar with the crime.
Smith told Sky News that he was left “shaken up” by his crash, and those behind the scam cause “pain and strife to innocent people”, as well as risking lives.
“There may be children or older, fragile people who may not be able to withstand even a small impact,” he said.
“I did not expect this car in front of me to stop suddenly because the road was clear of him.”
‘Significant’ personal injury claims
Immediately after his collision near Cotgrave, Mr Smith said the Audi driver – who had a passenger in his car – started taking pictures of the damage to his vehicle.
“He was very calm,” Mr. Smith said.
“He did not seem at all excited that something had just gone into his back.
“It’s the first time I’ve been involved in something like that. Until then, I had a perfectly clean logbook.”
Smith said his insurance company LV = investigated his dashcam footage and he admitted responsibility for the collision.
But several weeks later, the Audi driver sustained a “significant” personal injury despite the collision happening at low speed, Smith said.
A spokeswoman for LV = said their fraud detection systems intercepted some information about the driver, prompting the company to review the incident again.
Smith said his dashcam footage was re-examined, revealing that another car “appeared to be working with” the Audi vehicle.
The footage showed the other car had driven an entire loop around the roundabout before the Audi had apparently suddenly stopped in front of it, despite it being some distance away, he added.
Smith said his insurance companies tried to contact the Audi driver to say they thought it was a fraudulent allegation but received no response and the case was closed.
He told Sky News he is now relieved to know that the accident was not his fault, but he also felt “anger and frustration” that he had been forced to cover a £ 400 deductible for the car repairs.
Staged accidents ‘back to pre-pandemic levels’
LV = said it had seen increased activity from organized criminal groups working together to coordinate money-for-cash fraud.
Staged accidents accounted for the highest type of insurance fraud in the last quarter of 2021, it added.
Matt Crabtree, Head of Fraud Strategy at LV =, said: “With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, we are beginning to see staged and induced accidents back to pre-pandemic levels with increased activity from organized criminal groups.
“I urge the public to remain vigilant about this and look for dashcam or CCTV footage if you are involved in what you believe is an orchestrated accident.”
It is more than a decade since the first fatal accident-for-cash incident was recorded in the UK.
Baljinder Kaur Gill, 34, was killed in a collision caused by a deliberate crash on the A40 in Buckinghamshire in 2011.
Members of a Polish gang were involved in an attempted fraud in which a Volkswagen Passat and an Audi A3 had to drive into a Ford Transit van to claim personal injury compensation.
Ms Gills Ford Fiesta was hit by one of the vehicles used in the £ 20,000 insurance fraud and was left stranded in the overtaking lane.
Radoslaw Bielawski and Jacek Kowalczyk were jailed for 10 years and three months, and Andrzez Skowron was sentenced to 10 years for their role in Mrs Gill’s death.
New areas targeted
Known crash-for-cash hotspots in the UK include e.g. Birmingham, Bradford, Walsall, Blackburn, Romford, Manchester, Luton and London, according to IFB.
The agency has also identified 10 new areas that have often been targeted in the last 12 months.
• Frome, Somerset
• Worksop, Nottinghamshire
• Cirencester, Gloucestershire
• Milton Keynes
• Warrington, Cheshire
• Ashby, Leicestershire
There is also evidence to suggest that gangs are attacking villages with the dangerous tactics, IFB said.
There is now concern that if local drivers do not know they need to keep an eye on signs of the scam and report it, cases could escalate rapidly.
Ben Fletcher, director of IFB, said: “Crash for money launderers is known for developing their tactics and the latest evidence shows that they have started to spread from prominent crime hotspots to less suspicious cities and towns in the hope that they can avoid discovery.
“This change in tactics brings home the fact that no matter where people live, everyone should be on their guard against these ruthless car accident scams.
“To help us prevent cases from rising up and bring these scammers to court, we urge drivers to keep an eye out for signs of money laundering crashes and to report all evidence of it to us immediately.”
There are also fears that the cost-of-living crisis could make these scams more widespread.
Detective Tom Hill, of the City of London Police, said: “As we have seen before, an increase in the cost of living and consequent financial difficulties can often lead people to commit fraud.
“Unfortunately, this means that the public has to be even more aware than usual of fraudsters, such as the accident of money motorists.”