Motorists are being warned to watch out for a new type of “crash for cash scam” which may particularly target younger drivers and the elderly.
Unlike “traditional” crash for cash scams where fraudsters cause a collision, the new twist involves scammers accusing drivers of clipping their wing mirror, before becoming threatening and demanding cash up front.
The warning is being issued by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) and City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), alongside several insurers.
The con was detected in London in 2021, but the IFB and IFED said they have since seen the “clip for cash” scam spread to other parts of the UK, including in the South West and Wales.
The IFB and IFED are investigating more than 40 incidents where innocent people appear to have been targeted, but due to a lack of public awareness, they are concerned that hundreds of cases could be going unreported.
The con often takes place on a residential road, according to the police.
As the victim drives by slowly, the fraudster is parked in their car and throws an object such as a large rock at the side of the victim’s car to make an impact sound.
The victim is flashed by the fraudster’s car to get them to stop, before being accused of clipping a wing mirror, which had already been damaged.
The fraudster demands they hand over cash instantly or pressures them into visiting a cashpoint. The fraudster is reluctant to pursue any claim through the insurer. In some instances where the victim has not agreed to hand over money, the offender has become physically intimidating.
Some insurers said they are seeing younger drivers and the elderly being targeted.
“These fraudsters trick innocent motorists into thinking they’ve caused genuine damage and then apply pressure tactics to get victims to hand over cash.
“As there is little awareness of this new fraud type, it means drivers are more susceptible to falling victim. We’re urging everyone to look out for the warning signs of these wing mirror stings and report it to Cheatline and Action Fraud.”
Detective Inspector Philip Corcoran at IFED said: “Crash for cash scams pose a real safety risk to the public, so it is concerning to see these fraudsters evolve their tactics to target more unsuspecting drivers.
“Nobody should pressure you into handing over money at the scene of a collision. If you suspect you have fallen victim to this scam, report it to IFB’s Cheatline and to Action Fraud.”
Regardless of whether a genuine collision has taken place, money should never be handed over at the scene, police said.
If someone is accused of damaging a wing mirror, insurance details should be swapped as legally required. If there is an imminent risk of danger, police should be called.
If someone thinks they have been targeted, they should tell their insurer and local police force. They should also report their concerns to IFB’s Cheatline and Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service.
“One way to prevent people falling prey to the scam is to raise awareness of it.
“Which is why it’s important for insurers to support the IFB and IFED in the campaign to spread the word about it. If you suspect you’ve been targeted by fraudsters with this scam, let your insurance provider know and report it to Cheatline.”
Matthew Stevens, anti-fraud director at Hastings Direct, said: “My advice to motorists is to never hand cash over at the side of the road, always report the incident to your insurance provider and to call the police if the other motorist becomes threatening.”
Ben Fletcher, director of financial crime at LV= General Insurance, said: “Fraudsters are constantly evolving their tactics, and this is another example of how they prey on the vulnerable. We’re seeing younger and elderly drivers targeted as they’re more likely to fall for this awful scam.
“We work with the industry to crack down on any trends we see, and our fraud controls ensure we’re capturing these criminals to help protect innocent motorists and keep insurance costs down.
“It’s so important victims take pictures of the damage, look for witnesses who can help provide an account of what happened and report insurance fraud confidentially to Cheatline.”