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New ‘flash-for-cash’ insurance scam warning

Fri, 16 Aug 2013

Motorists are being warned about the rise of a new type of ‘crash-for-cash’ insurance scam dubbed ‘flash-for-cash’, which involves criminals flashing their headlights to let innocent victims out of side roads, then driving straight into them.

Flash-for-cash incidents are said to be costing the UK car insurance industry £392 million a year – which means the scam is adding as much as £50-£100 to every ordinary driver’s insurance policy.

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As with better-known cash-for-crash schemes, where a criminal deliberately brakes their car for no reason so the person behind crashes into them, the major problem with tackling this kind of crime is that it’s difficult to prove.

The hope is that by spreading the word, fewer drivers will fall victim to flash-for-cash crime

Unless there are witnesses who are prepared to come forward, in court the decision over whether someone really flashed their lights to let you out at a junction or side road comes down to the word of one driver against another.

This is compounded by the Highway Code, which tells motorists they should only flash their headlights as a warning, not as a means of signalling someone else to proceed – no matter how good the intention.

It seems the flash-for-cash scammers are also very careful about choosing their victims, targeting more vulnerable drivers such as the elderly, or mothers with children, especially during the school run. In other words, people who are less likely to argue about who was at fault.

After the accident, the criminals then profit by making false claims against the insurance companies. These include fraudulent whiplash claims, fake bills for damage repair and vehicle storage, even loss of earnings.

Flash-for-cash scams "a growing problem"

Speaking to the BBC, Metropolitan Police cash-for crash expert, detective inspector Dave Hindmarsh said: "It is a growing problem. Financially it costs insurers £392 million a year – that impacts on motorists as it’s an extra £10 to £100 on every person’s premium so that’s a financial cost."

Hindmarsh also points out the potential emotional costs as well, such as loss of driving confidence, and the possibility of injury or death during the so-called accident. It may sound incidental, but this is a serious crime.

The hope is that by spreading the word, fewer drivers will fall victim to this kind of crime. Think twice before you pull out next time someone flashes for you to do so – is that other driver really as kind and sincere as they look?

Finally, here’s a reminder of what the Highway Code says about flashing headlights: "Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users. Never assume that flashing headlights is a signal inviting you to proceed. Use your own judgement and proceed carefully."

On Bing: see pictures of car insurance fraudsWhiplash whoppers: top 10 fraudulent whiplash claimsEnding the UK’s whiplash epidemicWhiplash claims up but accidents downWhiplash adds £118 to every car insurance premium

By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars