A group of men appear to be targeting lone women drivers in Northamptonshire in order to make fraudulent insurance claims.
The incidents took place on the West Haddon roundabout on the A428 over the course of a weekend in late March.
This newspaper spoke with two victims, both of whom wish to remain anonymous.
The first woman described how a car with no brake lights stopped suddenly on the roundabout despite there being no traffic oncoming, causing her to run into the vehicle in front.
“I pulled over then three men got out. Instantly, you stop and think, ‘it’s a scam’. But with a daughter in the car, you just want to get away,” she said.
“They’re very calm, over-friendly at times. They got annoyed when I saw to my daughter, who was crying, rather than giving them my details.
“They obviously don’t want you to call the police so they try to be nice.”
The woman later saw on Facebook that two other women, also travelling alone, had had similar experiences.
The second woman with whom we spoke found herself behind the men’s car at the roundabout and described their technique for inducing the accident.
“We came up to the second roundabout, everything was fine, they went. Then all of a sudden, as you go to make your final check to your right for oncoming traffic, they slam on their brakes so that you go into the back of them.
“Thankfully, I barely touched them so there wasn’t much damage, and someone behind me witnessed it and pulled over.
“The men were very insistent that the witness should leave, that she didn’t need to be there and that everything was fine.”
The woman who was targeted by the men was wary because she had read about similar incidents happening at the roundabout.
She noticed that the driver did not take any photos or assess the damage, and she described him as “strangely calm.”
“He had a piece of paper and a pen ready to go and all he was interested in was taking my details,” she said.
“Before the woman stopped both of the men got out the car as if to intimidate me, as soon as the witness got out of her car, the passenger jumped straight back in and just didn’t say a word.”
She believes that the men could be seeking to get money off people if the gang don’t end up making a claim against the women - because he tried to ring her several times to tell her that his car bumper was hanging off.
She knew he was lying, however, as she had taken photos immediately after the accident.
These incidents come after the police issued a warning about ‘cash for crash’ incidents back in February this year.
The police do not typically handle these types of issues because they are considered insurance fraud, and are therefore primarily managed by the insurance companies.
A police spokesperson said: “In recent weeks, a number of alleged incidents in the Daventry area have been reported to us where fraudsters may have taken advantage of motor insurance companies which often pay off small, uncontested, or difficult-to-defend claims from drivers of cars involved in minor collisions.
“By making such uncontested claims, claimants can often receive considerable sums of compensation, sometimes up to £1,000 at a time.
“The tactics employed by the offenders also means that the true identity of the people who own the cars involved can never be established.”
The police advised motorists involved in these types of accidents to use their phone to capture as much photographic evidence as possible, providing it is safe to do so.
They also recommended fitting a dashboard video camera.
If you believe you are a victim of a cash for crash the police advise reporting the incident to them, alerting your insurer at the earliest opportunity, and checking they will not automatically pay out a claim without an investigation.
More information can be found at https://www.insurancefraudbureau.org. The Insurance Fraud Bureau works with insurers and the police to identify where the trends are.
UPDATE: We spoke to Ian Crowder, an insurance expert with the AA, to get his thoughts on the motivation behind these cash for crash incidents, how the perpetrators get away with them, what the Government is doing to prevent them, and why these are not victimless crimes.
“The way that it works is that, de facto, if you go into the back of another car it is your fault because you should have been looking and allowed enough space. In reality of course it’s their fault because they’re looking for an opportunity.
“So it’s incumbent on the insurance company in British law to prove that the person that did stop actually did cause the accident, and that they did not suffer an injury because what the people in the car in front are aiming for is to make money from an injury claim, that’s where the big money is.
“They’ll go to their GP and say they have pain, or they’ll go to a crooked claims management firm which is able to use a crooked medical practitioner to confirm that they have indeed suffered an injury.
“It is very difficult for the insurer to prove that that person did not suffer an injury. So as a result they tend to pay up - and there is a plan to make paying up out of court illegal. The trouble is if you go to court you will almost always lose the case because they cannot prove that the person wasn’t injured.
“I think in this day and age the Government is taking significant measures to counter this type of fraud. I don’t think these people will get away with it for much longer, even the fact it has come to the press’ attention means you can be certain the police will be looking into this. There is an Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department which is operated by the police. You can be sure they’ll be involving their fraud colleagues, and hopefully these people will get the justice they deserve because they’re praying on innocent victims.
“They might be making a bit of money but it’s not a victimless crime. If it happens to you on your way home tonight, the chances are by the time it’s all gone through it will cost your insurer an awful lot of money, you will lose your no claims bonus, your insurance premium will go up and it’s not your fault. It’s unjust.
“The sooner the Government can get the legislation in place to ensure this can be curbed, the better.”