Drivers warned about 'flash for cash' scam

16 August 2013

Drivers have been warned by anti-fraud experts about a car insurance scam known as 'flash for cash'. The scam involves criminals flashing their lights at a junction to indicate it is safe for a car to pull out - then crashing into them on purpose.

The scam, thought to be costing insurers millions of pounds each year, sees vulnerable drivers or those driving newer cars targeted.

It is the latest scam development, following the now well-known 'crash for cash' scam whereby drivers slam on their brakes without warning, forcing the driver behind to crash into them.

Detective Inspector Dave Hindmarsh from the Metropolitan Police told the BBC that once someone has fallen victim to the scam, criminal gangs will then put in a false personal injury claim for whiplash - often boosting their claim by including people who were not even in the car at the time of the incident.

The criminals are also charging insurance companies for loss of earnings, as well as adding fake bills for vehicle recovery, repairs, and even replacement car hire.

"The problem is a growing problem," Hindmarsh told the BBC. "Financially it costs insurers £392m a year - that impacts on motorists as it's an extra £50 to £100 on every person's premium so that's a financial cost.

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"[There are] emotional costs [as] if you're involved in a crash you could well lose your confidence, and if your passengers are children they may well become wary of being passengers in cars, and of course you may get injured or killed."

The flash for cash warning initially came from the Asset Protection Unit (APU), an advisory group that liaises with the police as well as the insurance industry to help investigate fraud.

The Highway Code states that motorists should not assume that someone flashing their lights "is a signal inviting you to proceed". Criminals prey on the fact that most drivers do perceive a flash of headlights as an invitation.

AA Insurance said flash for cash is "far from a victimless crime". Director Simon Douglas says insurers are concerned that criminal activity of this sort is ultimately paid for by honest motorists as the cost of dealing with fraud and injury affects premium prices.
"This has the potential for causing serious injury or death and I'm glad that the police are taking this shocking crime seriously," he said. "I hope that the criminals are dealt with severely by the courts. It is a also reminder to all drivers to be vigilant.
"Those who are victims of this crime should contact the police immediately and provide full information to their insurer. Insurance companies should take any cases like this very seriously and work with the police to get this criminal activity stopped."

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