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Insurance fraudsters eye van drivers

  • Fraudsters see vans as easy target
  • Almost 3,500 vans targeted a year
  • Ford Transit tops the list of victims

Criminals specialising in “crash for cash” scams are increasingly turning to van drivers as their cash cow. A recent report by the APU (Asset Protection Unit) suggests that a third of the 10,000 deliberate crashes a year involved a van.

The APU, which is made up of a team of former Police Officers and forensic investigators, say that fraudsters are increasingly turning to vans because their drivers are more likely to be fully insured and are less likely to dispute because of their heavy work schedules.

“This is yet another example of how criminal fraud gangs are becoming more sophisticated – they are thinking quite hard about exactly who they target on the roads and it’s based on solid logic”, explains Neil Thomas, APU’s Director of Investigative Services and a former Detective Inspector of West Midlands Police.

“Britain’s LCV drivers are a hard-working lot and are very often pushed for time, so they are less likely to stand by the side of the road arguing the case about a collision. The criminals are banking on the fact that they will simply exchange insurance details and move on. It’s cynical but it works”.

With an average value of £30,000, the “crash for cash” scheme is thought to cost the motor industry around £130 million annually.

“Fraud generally and crash for cash incidents are undoubtedly still on the increase across the UK - with fraudsters looking to take advantage and exploit the weaknesses of the industry”, Peter Oakes, Head of Fraud at international commercial law firm Hill Dickinson.

“Over 17% of induced accidents are perpetrated by individuals who have previously committed fraud, and they are increasingly turning their attention to commercial vehicles. Data and analytics is the best weapon the industry has against the fraudsters”.

“Our Netfoil database allows us to profile and identify and analyse fraud trends, such as this increase in targeting of Transit vans, and affording us the opportunity to inform, advise and protect our clients”.

Analysis of Hill Dickinson’s Netfoil database of 200 million records and approximately 10 million insurance claims reveals that only one LCV, the Ford Transit, appears in the top 20 vehicles for general insurance claims.

However, if we then look at ‘induced accidents’, accidents which were caused on purpose, the Transit is number one and is joined by the likes of the Mercedes Sprinter, Vauxhall Vivaro, Citroen Berlingo, Volkswagen Transporter, which together make up 31% of all claims.

The scam works by a member of the fraud gang causing a deliberate collision with that of an innocent victim. Traditionally, this involves the fraudster pulling in front of his chosen target and slamming on the brakes, allowing little time for the innocent party to avoid a collision.

Another tactic on the rise is “Flash for Cash”, which involves innocent drivers being beckoned out of a junction by the flash of headlights, only to be hit by the criminals’ car. The almost undetectable tactic makes it harder for an innocent driver to prove fault in the resulting ‘their word against mine’ dispute.

Thomas said that while LCV drivers should be vigilant for any suspicious activity on the roads, they should at all times maintain concentration and follow the basic rules of safe driving.