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Crash for cash

Crash for cash scams are an increasing problem on Britain’s roads, with many innocent drivers being targeted. Drivers are often unaware that they are the victim of a highly organised crime. The premise seems strange: you are forced to crash into somebody, damaging their car for their financial gain. Throughout the claims process you are held responsible for causing the accident, despite the fact that you have been maliciously induced into doing so. It is much like somebody grabbing your arm, hitting themselves in the head with your fist, and then having you arrested for assault and forcing you to pay them for the privilege. The accident victims will firstly pass their details onto a personal injury solicitor, who may typically charge anything between £500 and £800 as a marketing, or referral fee. Compensation will then be claimed, storage and replacement of the vehicle will be added to the bill, sometimes totaling £20,000 or above. All for a single shunt in the back of your vehicle. Your insurance premium is increased and a crime has been committed, leaving you as the real victim.

Here are 10 ways you can avoid this happening to you:

1. Take the Tyres and Tarmac approach. Always make sure you can see the tarmac below the tyres of the vehicle in front. Keeping a safe distance will reduce your risk of running into the back of somebody, by allowing a greater stopping distance.

2. Beware of Tailgaters. Concentrating on the car behind, through your rear view mirror will take your concentration from the car in front of you. This is how many gangs operate: the car behind you will attempt to take your eyes of the car in front of you, who is also “in on the act”. If the car in front brakes suddenly, you may find yourself accidentally hitting the back of them, as your concentration was on the vehicle behind you.

3. Always look for brake lights. Keep your distance from the car in front and always take extra care in traffic until you can confirm that the vehicle in front has fully operational brake lights. If a car looks like it is slowing quickly and the brake lights are not illuminated, give that particular vehicle plenty of room. Non- functioning lights are a typical ploy to trap unsuspecting motorists.

4. Take extra care at roundabouts or areas where there is stop-start congestion. Roundabouts, especially at rush hour, can be hectic places and timing your manoeuvre is of paramount importance. Naturally, this makes for an ideal opportunity for gangs to target you. A typical example is where there is a gap to join a roundabout. The car in front will speed up to join the busy traffic and you are keen to follow and to join also. The car in front then suddenly brakes and you follow – into the back of their car. The only way to avoid this is not to rush at roundabouts and be very wary of what the car in front is doing. A high percentage of “crash for cash” scams involve roundabouts, owing to the unpredictable nature and heavy traffic.

5. Beware of cars rapidly pulling out of junctions and then braking in front of you.

6. Be extra aware if you are a commercial vehicle owner. Commercial vehicle owners are an easy target when it comes to “crash for cash” as they know that there is a higher probability of the vehicle being fully insured. A regular scam involves two cars and a larger commercial vehicle on the motorway. A car will drive in front of the commercial vehicle, and the second car will intentionally sway into the lane of the car, forcing it to brake and forcing the commercial vehicle to go into the back of the car in front.

7. Be extra aware of known “Hotspots”. Manchester, Bradford, Bolton and Oldham in the North of England are apparently some of the worst areas for “crash for cash” scammers.

8. Take extra care when in lanes. Motorways and dual carriageways always require drivers to give extra diligence to conditions, but it is worth trying to be even more aware when driving in lanes, being aware in faster traffic and always being conscious of the middle lane. A car can purposely pull from the outside lane (fast lane) and cause you to swerve into another car. The faster you are traveling – the greater the risk of severe injury.

9. Be wary of ties, ribbons and materials attached to an exhaust/ tow bar on a vehicle. This practice is getting rarer these days, as many gangs do not wish to draw attention to a particular vehicle via a camera or CCTV. A ribbon or other material tied to a car can indicate that it is willing to be involved in a staged accident, and as an innocent party you may be drawn into a crash – sandwiched between two cars.

10. If you have been involved in an accident and hit the back of another vehicle, then do not panic. As long as you feel okay, chances are you will be okay – always go to the hospital or doctors for a check up just to make sure. If you think that the accident was your fault, then you may have to hold your hands up, but if you are remotely suspicious then be as vigilant as possible. Call the police, take photographs of the vehicle damage (as scammers will often have their vehicle doctored to make it look like the impact was much higher, thus allowing for a greater compensation claim as more damage was caused) and take the full details of the other party. Do not accept liability.

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