Car insurance cheats made fraudulent claims worth £260 million last year, with the number of dishonest drivers up 70% over the past three years.
Insurers uncovered 24,000 fraudulent motor insurance claims last year, worth a collective £260 million - or £5 million a week. Unscrupulous claims made in 2007 include a policyholder who pretended his car had been stolen when in reality he had pushed it off a cliff.
Another claimant, a Land Rover driver, deliberately crashed the vehicle into the front of her house after an argument with her partner. She later told the insurer that her foot had slipped off the break.
Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers, warns that the rise in fraudulent claims will end up costing honest drivers more in premiums.
“Insurance fraud is no victimless crime. Honest motorists pay through higher insurance premiums – an extra £40 a year on average.”
Those attempting to cheat their insurers could also end up with a criminal record, like the Rolls Royce owner who claimed £10,000 for the alleged theft of the front grill, hubcaps, steering wheel, seats and bonnet mascot. The police later found these items in his home, and he received a criminal conviction.
Other policyholders who have attempted to cheat their insurer - and got caught - include:
* A man who claimed he lent his car to friends, and it had been stolen and involved in a total loss accident. However, on investigation it transpired that his friends had driven it into a brick wall.
* A woman who was ordered to do 120 hours community service after she hid her car in a barn and fraudulently claimed it had been stolen.
* A driver who claimed his car had been stolen and burnt out. However, a check on the industry fraud database showed that he had made exactly the same claim on the same vehicle six years previously.
Meanwhile, new research found that people who drive a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Golf, and live in London or the Midlands, are more likely to be a victim of vehicle-related theft than anyone else in the country.
Unsurprisingly, vehicle-related crime is most common during the darker winter months, and over 50% of victims of theft never see their belongings or car again.
People who drive a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Golf are most likely to become a victim of theft, followed by those who drive a Vauxhall Astra, Vauxhall Corsa or Nissan Micra.
After London and the Midlands, the North West and Yorkshire are the most common locations for car thieves.
In contrast, people living in Scotland and the Borders are the least likely to have their car or belongings stolen.
Robin Reames, claims director of swiftcover.com, which compiled the research, recommends drivers keep their cars secure at all time.
“It's amazing how many people leave their keys in the ignition whilst de-frosting the car, or pop into the post office leaving their car windows open,” he adds. “It's just an open invitation to opportunistic thieves."