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Leased vehicles targeted in 'crash-for-cash' scams

Date: 17 May 2016   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Fleets are being targeted by 'crash-for-cash' fraudsters in a bid to extract quick payments from large corporate insurance policies. 

Perpetrators are said to be deliberately colliding with fleet vehicles in the belief that they are likely to receive faster compensation for bogus whiplash claims from business insurers as opposed to private insurance policies, where claims may take longer to settle.

"These criminals are picking on a type of fleet car because they're easy to recognise," Antony Martin, the chairman of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association's technical and operational management committee, told BusinessCar. "You can tell [leased] fleet cars by [the branding on] their number plates - Zenith, Arval, Lex, GE etc. It's a very easy way of finding out whether it's a company vehicle.

"There have been incidences where we believe the drivers have been targeted on the basis that it's going to be a fleet policy and it's actually easier to extract cash than from an individual policy."

Martin said the problem was such that at least one company had requested anonymous plates. "One [fleet] wanted standard number plates because they felt it attributed to it and [one leasing company ]looked a couple of years ago at whether it should just be using standard number plates across the board.

"We mark the plates for advertising, but it helps at the back end as well [when remarketing the vehicles] - people can recognise who the owner of the vehicle was, and it helps from a branding point of view in the vehicle remarketing world."

Crash-for-cash scams involve motorists deliberately colliding with other road users in order to claim whiplash compensation via insurance companies. The practice typically involves the offending party slamming on their brakes while travelling in front of the victim, although similar cases, known as 'flash-for-cash', involve criminals flashing their headlights to allow the victim right of way before deliberately crashing into them.

The number of crash-for-cash scams in the UK fell by 2% in 2015 according to insurance firm Aviva, but that follows an all-time high in 2014 when the organisation recorded a 21% year-on-year rise. The firm says it records one such incident every three hours and that Birmingham is the country's crash-for-cash hotspot.  

A spokesman for the insurer told BusinessCar: "If you're a fraudster, you want to make sure the person you're crashing into is insured because you want to get paid at the end of it.

"That's why they target commercial vehicles because they have a higher likelihood of being insured, and if a van says something like Iceland or Asda on the side they think 'that's going to be insured so I can crash into it and I'll get paid'."

The spokesman continued: "It makes sense [that criminals are targeting company cars] because they'll know it's insured. The assumption from the fraudster's point of view is 'it's a small claim for them and they're going to want to settle quickly'."