Crash-for-cash Insurance Fraud — [Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

– in Westminster Hall am 9:30 am ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Ceidwadwyr, Carshalton and Wallington 9:30, 22 Mai 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of tackling crash for cash insurance fraud.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. So-called crash-for-cash insurance fraud is an issue that many of my constituents have brought to my attention in recent weeks and months. “Crash for cash” refers to incidents in which individuals deliberately stage or cause road traffic collisions for financial gain. The scams often involve making fraudulent insurance claims for injuries or damages that did not actually occur. Often perpetrators exaggerate injuries or falsely claim that additional passengers were involved in a collision, to increase their payouts.

There are three principal types of crash-for-cash scams that I want to talk about: induced accidents, which involve fraudsters targeting an innocent motorist as the driver “at fault”, often by suddenly braking in front of their car to cause a crash; staged accidents, which involve fraudsters crashing their own vehicle or mimicking the damage of a crash by using tools such as sledgehammers; and fabricated accidents, which involve fraudsters submitting false claims for accidents that never occurred. The scams are constantly evolving, presenting numerous variations beyond the principal types.

Crash-for-cash fraudsters often target vulnerable drivers who are in a hurry or are unwilling to cause trouble. I have heard about women in my constituency being particularly targeted for such frauds. The scams harm all law-abiding motorists, increasing unnecessary work for the emergency services and the NHS, and causing innocent victims to lose their no-claims bonus and face rising premiums. The proceeds from the scams may go on to fund other serious organised crime. Not only are such actions deceitful, but they are already illegal, falling under offences in the Fraud Act 2006 and the Road Traffic Act 1988.

To fully explain the scams, I will share a few examples. Katrina is a brave woman who experienced crash-for-cash fraud at first hand in an incident near the Wallington high street last month when she was on her way to pick up her daughter from school. As she waited to turn right, a biker on her right stopped to give way. As the traffic halted, she cautiously pulled out halfway, stopping to ensure that the left side was clear. However, when she turned her head to check, another biker had collided with the front of her car. To her dismay, she noticed that the first biker was laughing, and the biker who had hit her immediately began filming the scene. Shaken and confused, she pulled around the corner to exchange details, but encountered a language barrier and evasive behaviour from the biker.

Despite the minimal damage to her car, something felt off. Trusting her instincts, Katrina reported the incident to her insurance company and the police. Following police advice, she contacted the Insurance Fraud Bureau. Later the same evening, she witnessed a similar incident in Sutton, although at the time she did not connect the two. A couple of days later, she discovered through a Wallington Facebook group that others had experienced identical incidents in the same week within the small area of Carshalton and Wallington. That confirmed her suspicion that it was not an accident, but part of a deliberate scam. Recently, she has received a letter from a law firm requesting a settlement. She intends to fight the claim, as it is appalling that people can exploit such fraudulent schemes, potentially affecting insurance premiums and causing undue stress and injury. I am sure that we wish her all the best.

Katrina’s story underscores the importance of vigilance and the need to report suspicious incidents. Not only are so-called crash-for-cash scams deceitful, but they have real consequences for innocent victims. This bold woman’s decision to share her experience highlights the importance of raising awareness of the issue and the need to do something about it.

Another victim in Wallington was targeted by a moped scammer who intentionally crashed their vehicle and refused to give details. The police did not attend; the victim was left to gather evidence alone. Another incident on London Road in Wallington involved a moped scraping a car and fleeing when a police car approached. The victim’s dashcam only captured the front, making it difficult to prove a scam.

A parent in Sutton faced a similar scam during the school run, causing immense stress, especially with young children in the car. There appears to be a trend of parents, particularly mothers, being targeted during the school run, when roads are busier and people are in much more of a rush. For that couple, it all began when a motorbike deliberately collided with the husband’s car, resulting in minor damage. Although the biker admitted fault at the scene, they then filed a fraudulent insurance claim for a substantial amount of money, causing my constituent significant frustration. It took persistent effort, including escalation to the chairman of Admiral, for the case to garner the attention it deserved.

The same couple were then involved in another incident in Wallington, also involving a moped. Despite the moped driver refusing to provide details, the police initially failed to respond. It was not until the couple posted on the social media site Nextdoor and filed a report that the police began to take action. Thankfully, CCTV was available for the incident, which shed light on the situation. However, even the supposed witnesses turned out to be a part of the scam, leading to a barrage of fraudulent insurance calls. It has been a frustrating ordeal, but the couple have diligently reported all incidents to the authorities and their insurance company and are hoping for a resolution.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2006, focuses on preventing and detecting such organised fraud. It supports the insurance industry and law enforcement by providing intelligence and assisting in investigations. It also attempts to raise public awareness about insurance fraud scams and educate consumers on how to identify and avoid them. In 2023, the IFB managed more than 150 live operations, valued at about £90 million, and referred 52 cases to the police. It received more than 5,000 reports through its CheatLine, with 68% resulting in actionable intelligence. Currently, it has about 6,000 active crash-for-cash investigations, worth more than £70 million. That represents about 30% of all its live operations.

The Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, which does great work to detect organised fraud, puts research into action. It is a specialised police force established in 2012, funded by the Association of British Insurers and dedicated to tackling insurance fraud. Hosted by the City of London police, the UK’s lead force for economic crime, the IFED operates independently while collaborating closely with insurance companies. Since its inception, it has investigated fraud valued at £360 million, made more than 3,230 arrests and secured more than 2,200 convictions, resulting in nearly 320 years of prison time.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Before this morning, I would not have imagined that the figures were so tremendously high. Does he agree that the millions of motorists who insure their cars year on year will suffer as a result of crash-for-cash fraud, not just this year and next year but in ongoing years? We need firm and decisive action to ensure that it does not occur to the level that he is very clearly elucidating.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Ceidwadwyr, Carshalton and Wallington

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I will come on to that point shortly. This is not a victimless crime; it is not that the fraudster gets some money but no one is worse off. Real people’s insurance premiums are going up, often by an amount that they cannot afford, and we absolutely must do something about it.

The IFED has investigated so-called crash-for-cash fraudsters. In September 2021, it secured convictions against three individuals who deliberately caused collisions that resulted in substantial damage and injuries. The fraudsters filed multiple personal injury claims totalling nearly £50,000, but thanks to CCTV footage and inconsistencies in their accounts, the insurer referred the case to the IFED, leading to custodial sentences ranging from nine to 20 months. In February 2022, similar convictions were secured against another three individuals who also staged a collision, with claims amounting to £48,000.

The insurance industry runs several public awareness campaigns on crash-for-cash scams and tries to provide drivers with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves. Recent campaigns have focused on crash-for-cash moped scams, which are particularly prevalent in London at the moment, although I am sure the same applies in other cities and other parts of the United Kingdom. It is vital to raise awareness of the issue so that motorists have the knowledge to protect themselves, so I will repeat some of that advice now.

Motorists should be cautious of cars travelling unusually slowly or erratically and of drivers paying excessive attention to the vehicle behind them; should maintain a safe distance so that they can brake in time; should follow the highway code and look ahead for potential hazards, including unusual driving behaviour; and should notice if the other driver is too calm and has pre-written their insurance details or if injuries seem exaggerated. Those who are involved in a suspected crash-for-cash incident should gather as much information as possible, including written details, photos, dashcam footage and any nearby CCTV; should report the incident to their insurer, the local police and the IFB CheatLine; and should stay vigilant and informed to protect themselves and others to help combat the scams.

An investigation led by the IFB, the City of London police, the IFED and several insurers has found that 2,250 people in London alone have been the victim of such a scam in the past two years, and many of the suspected fraudsters are believed to be couriers delivering items such as takeaways. As I said, the IFB is currently investigating more than 6,000 suspected claims, estimated to be worth £70 million.

I welcome the measures that the Government have taken to tackle insurance fraud, such as the insurance fraud taskforce, which was set up in 2015 and comprises members from the insurance industry, the Financial Ombudsman Service, citizens advice, the Treasury and the Ministry of Justice. The taskforce has conducted a review and made several recommendations; I note that its 2017 report highlighted so-called crash-for-cash scams. I welcome the significant steps that have been taken more recently to enhance fraud enforcement as part of the Government’s 2023 fraud strategy, including appointing 400 specialist investigators as part of a national fraud squad and creating the new voluntary post of anti-fraud champion, which is currently held by my excellent hon. Friend Simon Fell.

Despite those efforts, obtaining detailed statistics on crash-for-cash offences remains challenging. Official crime statistics do not separately identify such offences; instead, they are grouped under insurance-related fraud. In 2023, approximately 13,700 offences were recorded in that category in England and Wales, and the IFB estimates that 69,500 personal injury claims are linked to crash-for-cash scams annually, costing the insurance industry nearly £400 billion.

What is the Minister’s strategy to tackle this growing issue and what work are Ministers doing in conjunction with the industry and police to work on establishing joint strategies for prevention? The fight against crash-for-cash scams needs a collective effort from law enforcement, Government agencies and the insurance industry. I hope that my constituents’ cases that I have highlighted today will encourage us all to work together to protect innocent motorists and ensure that those who perpetrate such fraudulent schemes are brought to justice.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Llafur, Mitcham and Morden 9:43, 22 Mai 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I thank Elliot Colburn for securing this debate about crash-for-cash scams. South-west London has been a target for organised crime gangs seeking to scam constituents in both of our patches, so this is a much-needed debate. The more attention we give the issue, the less likely our constituents are to be the victims of an insurance fraud.

I will start by declaring an interest: in retrospect, I understand that I have been the victim of a crash-for-cash incident. About eight months ago, I was driving through Tooting on a residential road when a moped came out of nowhere, overtook me and stopped right in front of me. I was not travelling very fast—it was a residential road—so I did an emergency stop and managed to avoid hitting the moped.

Immediately, the driver dropped the moped and began to shout and point at me. I pulled over to see that he was okay, but I was absolutely confused because I knew I had done no damage to his moped and that he too was not hurt in any way. I just did not understand what was going on. He dragged me over, took my details and took photographs of me, of my car, which showed no signs of damage, and of his moped. I gathered myself to take pictures of his moped and watched him drive off on it, and I thought no more of the incident. Then, some time later, I received a letter from a solicitor demanding large amounts of money because of the need for the driver to use a replacement vehicle.

Not until a constituent came to my advice surgery and went on to describe exactly the same sort of case did I really understand what had happened, and I feel pretty stupid now. My constituent, Ms T, told me that she had spotted a stationary moped on a residential road. Then, when she turned to exit a junction, the moped sped up and lightly tapped her car. The driver then threw his bike to the floor and started shouting at her. He immediately took photographs of Ms T’s car, but he fled the scene before she could take down any of his details. Lo and behold, she was then contacted by her insurers, who let her know that the driver had made a claim. Only then did I realise that both my constituent and I were among the 170,000 people targeted every year by organised crime gangs as part of crash-for-cash scams.

Since then, I have met representatives of Allianz and LV= insurers—not my own, I hasten to add—and learned that crash for cash is a slick operation that targets women: specifically women on the school run, as the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said, because the gangs feel that they are less likely to put up a fight. That was the experience of Ms T, who was driving near a school at 10 am when the incident happened, and it is the experience of four in 10 people who fall victim to this. There also seem to be hotspots, with criminals targeting the outskirts of major cities and, specifically in south-west London, Thornton Heath, which, although it is part of Croydon, abuts my own constituency.

The scam is valued at about £392 million a year. It is big business that is only getting bigger—Allianz has reported that the crime has increased by 25%. What can we do about it? The first thing is the Government’s fraud strategy. The crash-for-cash scam is not even mentioned in that document, but if we are serious about our plan to stop fraud at source and pursue those responsible, that would be a sensible first step.

The next step is the job of the insurance industry: we need insurers to do a thorough job of investigating opportunistic insurance fraud and to let constituents know that they may have been a victim. In my own case, when I gathered myself and realised what had happened, I sent my insurers photographs and the short video. I said that I thought that I had been the victim of a scam. They wrote back to say that I would need to go to court and there was only a 50:50 chance of my being successful.

Finally, we need much more public awareness so that potential victims know how to look out for the scammers. If drivers know the signs of an unfazed driver with pre-written insurance information, they can let the police know and stop this at source. It might seem like a trivial issue, but it is a business worth £392 million a year and all our constituents will be better off if we can stamp it out. It is not a victimless crime. All of us trying to reinsure our cars know how much car insurance premiums are increasing. We must ensure that the law-abiding drivers of this country are not victims of higher premiums because of opportunistic organised crime.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:49, 22 Mai 2024

It is lovely to see you in the chair, Ms Fovargue. I thank Elliot Colburn for bringing this important debate to the Chamber.

In preparing for the debate, I found out that Glasgow is sixth in the league table of places for crash-for-cash claims—although it is not something that my constituents have raised with me yet—so it is certainly an issue that I will be taking up as well. Allianz has mentioned that there was a sixtyfold increase, in 2023 alone, of motorbike crash-for-cash claims, so we should not be treating this lightly or ignoring it; it is increasing and we should do more to deal with it. Aviva has put a figure of £59 million on motor fraud as a result of some of these activities. Again, that has an impact on all our insurance premiums, which have already gone up considerably. A lot more can be done to highlight the issue so that nobody ends up a victim of this crime.

It was interesting to hear from the hon. Members for Carshalton and Wallington and for Mitcham and Morden (Dame Siobhain McDonagh) about the frightening impact on victims. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden clearly went through a difficult and confusing experience. The victim does not know what is going on when someone comes at them and behaves in that way, which is very frightening. The seeming targeting of mums on the school run is again frightening, particularly if children are in the car when something happens—that can be distressing and something they will not easily forget. There is something nasty about this type of crime.

As has been said, car insurance industry research shows that scammers use three different types of tactics for their staged accidents. Incidents where fraudsters crash into each other and claim on their separate insurance policies perhaps have less impact on the rest of us, although it has a worrying impact in terms of fraud. There are contrived accidents, where scammers make insurance claims; made-up accidents that have never taken place; and induced accidents, crash for cash, where a person deliberately drives dangerously or badly to force a collision with an innocent motorist—slamming on the brakes without warning, swerving into them or pulling out at a junction or roundabout, giving an incoming car no chance to avoid them.

This activity has a serious and frightening impact on people, and is a growing problem. The Insurance Fraud Bureau says that crash-for-cash scams happen every four minutes on UK roads; during this debate there will have been multiple scams. The bureau estimates that 30,000 incidents take place every year, costing insurers about £350 million in losses. The impact on insurance premiums is a rise of about £44 per person. The increase in such fraud is worrying, because when driving we expect to proceed in a normal way. We do not expect people to come at us in the way that these motorbikes or cars may do. That scenario can cause serious injury, particularly if it happens on a faster road. There is a real risk of injury and serious harm from the impact on the car and person. The scammers are posing a serious risk to themselves and other people.

I would be grateful if the Minister gave more details about the involvement of organised crime gangs, and how they are organising themselves to carry this out. There has been talk about other kinds of fraud being facilitated over social media. Is there such evidence for this type of crime as well? Social media has been an organising and facilitating method for many other types of fraud, both in recruiting people to be part of the scams, and for sharing information. It would be useful to know whether that is happening.

I encourage people to listen carefully to the advice given by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington about what we can do as motorists and car passengers in these instances. We should be vigilant, look around and pay attention, as we always should when driving. Should something like this happen, we should look for damage, take photographs and be aware of what is going on. We should not feel forced into taking someone’s details. Sometimes scammers try to force people to part with cash there and then, on the scene, to try to avoid insurance claims. Do not go ahead and do that, because that is part of the scam. Take as many details as possible of the person involved.

It was quite chilling to hear that some of the bystanders—the people watching—could also be part of this scam. Victims should try to find somebody to help and support them, collect as much evidence as possible, and contact their own insurer and the police, because with evidence we can tackle these crimes, crack down on the perpetrators and get to the root of the organised crime gangs running these operations. All evidence is very useful. Taxi drivers can particularly fall victim to this kind of scam, which can take their business off the road. They are now obliged to have dashcams, both front and rear, in their vehicles. It would be useful to hear how many people have had dashcams installed to deal with this kind of scenario.

What is happening with public awareness of this issue, Minister? What are the Government doing to let people know that it is happening? This cannot be left just to insurers or to police; we need a co-ordinated effort to ensure that people are aware and that we do not provide an open door to crime gangs to perpetrate these awful incidents. As the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden said so powerfully, they can be frightening and long-lasting. I ask the Minister for more details of what will be done.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 9:55, 22 Mai 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I frequently get the opportunity to take part in debates that Elliot Colburn leads in this place, because of his very important work on the Petitions Committee. Today, his leadership of this debate in the interests of his constituents was characteristically thoughtful, particularly when he talked about the advice he would give in these cases. That was a public service contribution that we cannot repeat enough. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is a constantly evolving crime type, and we must evolve our efforts to match it. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and on his contribution.

Colleagues have set out how important this issue is, and the impact of these scams on victims and the insurance industry. It also impacts on wider local services, including the NHS and the police, which are already stretched at the moment. This is a serious problem. The financial impact of this kind of fraud is significant, with fraudulent claims pushing premiums up for ordinary motorists, as the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington mentioned.

It always enriches debates when colleagues bring their own personal experiences into the room. When my hon. Friend Dame Siobhain McDonagh talked about how she felt, I double-underlined one word she used: “stupid”. There is nothing stupid about it at all. That is how life feels when we engage in good faith with someone who is actually quite a polished and artful scammer, about something that did not happen.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden mentioned the particular vulnerability of mums on the school run, as did the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. When they are busy protecting loved ones and performing an important function in their life, and then stop to engage with someone who has set out that day to defraud, of course they would end up feeling daft. How do we compete with that level of polish and organisation? It is happening up and down the country every day. I will return later to the points that my hon. Friend made about hotspots, because that is a particularly important part of what we can do to look at solutions in the future.

Insurance fraud is a blight on our society. “Crash for cash” is a catch-all term used, for instance, where people deliberately stage or cause a road traffic collision for the purpose of financial gain. The police describe three different types of crash-for-cash fraud. First, there are staged accidents, when someone makes a claim for an incident that they have deliberately staged with another individual. Secondly, there are ghost accidents, when someone makes a claim for an incident that never occurred. That will not directly impact on our constituents in the same way, because they are not enforced parties to it, but it does impact us through our insurance premiums. We know that this is a regular, routine happening.

Finally, as we have spoken about quite a bit today, there are induced incidents, when someone makes a claim after intentionally causing a collision with an innocent motorist. Hon. Members have mentioned their experiences and those of their constituents, but we have also seen videos of this online. The footage is staggering: people driving their scooter or running in front of a car, creating a collision and throwing themselves to the floor, and then getting up and creating a drama and a scene that they know the innocent party will not want to be part of—certainly not if they have young children in the car. There is a sadness here, because although those filming the incidents are best protected through whatever capabilities they have in the car, I do not really want to live in a society where I must go on the road filming and surveilling what is happening to be protected from people trying to scam me. That is not a world we want to live in, or ought to have to live in.

Alison Thewliss mentioned taxi drivers. Being off the road or having issues relating to insurance or their licence is significant for them—this is their livelihood—so I can understand why they take the decision to record to protect their businesses. Those who seek to scam are pushing well-meaning, law-abiding citizens into that type of behaviour every day.

We have heard a little from colleagues about how this issue makes people feel, but we cannot stress it enough. It makes them feel that they are no longer safe on the roads or in their communities; every time they are driving, they dread that it may well happen again. Again, that is not how we want people to feel when they are driving their cars.

Driving is important and, by its nature, risky. We do not want people to flinch every time someone moves in front of them or goes around them, thinking they are seeking to create a collision, but that is how people across the country who have fallen victim to these crimes feel. That is notwithstanding the fact that for someone to seek to induce a collision, whether or not they were successful in clipping or skimming, is exceptionally dangerous, as is doing something that makes someone act reflexively, which puts others at risk too. This is a safety issue, as well as being an issue of insurance premiums and cost.

I hope the Minister might be able to tell us something about scale, but I am not sure that the crime statistics on which we would usually rely give us enough detail to identify the number of crash-for-cash offences in insurance-related fraud or to identify the trends. However, the number of crash-for-cash cases investigated by the insurance fraud enforcement department is up 15% since 2021, so there is clearly a behaviour change. The industry itself has made its own estimates.

The IFB estimates that around 170,000 car insurance claims between October 2019 and the end of 2020 were linked to crash-for-cash fraud schemes. That is significant —multiple thousands of incidents every single day. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden mentioned, Allianz reports that the number of accidents has increased by a quarter in 2023. We know that this is happening and that organised fraudsters see it as an attractive type of crime. It is an important issue.

At a time when people are struggling—people up and down the country are still feeling financial challenges—the impact on premiums is significant. Inflation is in the news today, but whatever the rights and wrongs of that conversation, insurance prices in the first quarter of this year are up a third on the first quarter of last year. We always encourage our constituents to shop around, but we know that that is a bill that people are feeling. By its nature, it is a big bill—three and sometimes four-figure sums of money that come in one go—and people are feeling the pressure. It makes a significant contribution. No one should think that this is a victimless crime, because it very much is not; we will all suffer from it. What conversations has the Minister had with the industry about what it can do to combat fraud and to ensure that those costs are not piling up on ordinary motorists?

I have a few points to make to the Minister about what we could be doing on the issue. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden said, the Government’s fraud strategy does not include it. Fraud by its nature is a shape-shifting, ever-changing endeavour by people who seek to profit by doing the wrong thing, so that document by definition has to be a living and breathing one. What can the Minister do to include it? If it is not to be included in the strategy, can he provide an assurance that it is seen as a priority?

The IFB has highlighted the 30 most-challenged postal districts in this regard. If this issue is affecting certain communities, that is a good hotspot policing- type approach that we could take. The issue links back, as so often in these debates, to the fact that there are 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police. We have made our own commitments in that space and will continue to argue for them. This is the type of behaviour that individuals undertake if they think there will never be any accountability, just like retail crime—for example, if someone feels that they can walk in and nick stuff from the meat counter because there is no uniformed presence. Insurance fraud is similar. We need a uniformed presence on streets in areas where we know those crimes are taking place, so that there is that deterrent and sense that the streets are contested and that those who do the right thing are being backed up by the agencies we rely on to support them.

Finally, I know that there is a limit to the things the Minister can say in this space, but the reality—again, this is the same for retail crime—is that organised gangs that operate with sophistication in stealing at a staggering scale in the retail space do not just do retail crime; they do trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour, drug dealing and all sorts of organised crime. Breaking one element can help us break all those elements. I wonder whether the Minister might talk a little about the model used by the fraudsters who operate in this space—whether they are stand-alone fraudsters or part of the greater industrial-scale fraud that we see across a variety of different topics. As I say, if we can crack them on this, we can crack them on all sorts of things. It has been a good debate, and I hope the Minister will address some of those points.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 10:06, 22 Mai 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I am delighted to speak in a debate secured by my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn. He demonstrates again not only his commitment to his constituents, but the way to use the House quite correctly to bring out a particular example that affects both his constituents and people across the whole United Kingdom. I am delighted that Alison Thewliss highlighted many of these issues in Scotland. Dame Siobhain McDonagh touched on many of those issues and, sadly, her personal experience. That certainly was a telling lesson for all of us.

I am glad that Alex Norris touched on many of the questions that we are all looking at, because insurance fraud is not a victimless crime, as Members have highlighted. A few weeks ago I renewed my insurance premium, and I felt it; I know we all do. The reality is we are covering not just our own errors and foibles behind the wheel but those made by others and, in this case, by criminals. That is why I take the matter incredibly seriously, because fraud is not a victimless crime. It is not simply a crime against the insurance business or insurance companies, which in itself is not victimless—after all, insurance companies are owned by shareholders, families and individuals across the United Kingdom. Rather, it is a crime that has a direct implication for the pay packets and household economy of families across the United Kingdom. That is why fraud is taken so seriously and is part of the brief of the Security Minister.

Members may think it unusual that fraud, or even crash fraud like this, is part of my brief—I usually spend my time wondering what different foreign agents may be trying to do in the United Kingdom or, indeed, what hostile states may be trying to steal off us—and they may question the connection. But as hon. Members have correctly said, the connections are clear: criminals use fraud to raise cash to exchange with agents of hostile states. Effectively, the connection between hostile states, serious and organised crime, and people trafficking and fraud is all too clear. I should be clear that that does not mean that every group is connected in all parts. Sadly, or rather happily, many groups are not connected and are simply small ventures by individuals who are trying to exploit something that they may have been told about by somebody else. Therefore, they are simply copycat cases. We should not exaggerate too much, but keep that in perspective. The truth is that there are serious challenges. The serious point here is that hundreds of thousands of such cases have come to light: I think we are now up to 130,000, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington said. The Insurance Fraud Bureau, which does so much to lead on this issue, has around 6,000 active suspected crash-for-cash claim investigations that have been notified to it by its members, with an estimated worth of over £70 million, and crash-for-cash cases make up about 30% of its live investigations.

We also recognise that moped-enabled crash-for-cash fraud is on the rise, which the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden highlighted quite correctly. It is pernicious and can be extremely dangerous, because not only is the rider putting themselves at risk, but they may force the driver of the car into a dangerous manoeuvre that could put other road users at risk. It is perhaps not the case here, but a solicitor or another person can also be complicit in the scam, which needs to be called out. That is why we are working not just with the insurance sector, or even just with policing. I am grateful that the hon. Member for Nottingham North recognised that we have hired thousands of new police officers over England and Wales over the last year, many of whom are on the streets. Only London under a Labour government has failed to meet its target, which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and his constituents sadly know all too well.

The reality is that it is not just about policing, but about the way we work with solicitors, regulatory authorities and the various other organisations with oversight of the area. Unlike traditional scams, the moped scam involves hiding down a side road, nipping out and effectively trying to provoke an accident, which is extremely dangerous. The Insurance Fraud Bureau ran a targeted awareness campaign on the scam in June last year, which we supported because it highlighted what road users should look out for and what they should do if they think they have been a victim of such a scam. The campaign received widespread national coverage, and I am grateful to Sky, the BBC and TalkTV for picking it up.

There is still an awful lot that we must do. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington for setting out many of those areas, and to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden for highlighting how fraud can happen to anyone in the United Kingdom. The impact of fraud goes beyond financial losses, and improving support for victims is an important part of our fraud strategy. My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington is right. Not only have we introduced 400 new officers for the national fraud squad, but thanks to its efforts and the City of London police, we have managed to bring down fraud as a crime target. It is now down 16% year on year, building on 13% last year, which demonstrates that we are travelling in the right direction.

Sadly, fraud is playing a more important part in many people’s lives. So much of our lives is now online and has therefore been opened up to a different area of exploitation. That is why the work we are doing across the 43 police forces of England and Wales to support more victims through Action Fraud as part of the fraud strategy is so important.

We are also supporting National Trading Standards in its roll-out of a multi-agency approach to fraud, bringing together local services and improving support to vulnerable victims. Through the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, which I know the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington has beside his bed at night, we legislated to require the payment systems regulator to introduce mandatory reimbursement for authorised push payment scams. Those provisions will come into force in October and will ensure that more people get their money back.

This is a matter of huge importance to the Government and something that we take seriously. My hon. Friend Simon Fell, our fraud champion, has been working on it closely. He has been an important asset to the Home Office in making sure that work comes together. I am very grateful for the kind words of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington about our fraud champion. I agree: he is excellent.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Ceidwadwyr, Carshalton and Wallington 10:14, 22 Mai 2024

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions. This has been a fantastic debate. I particularly thank my constituency neighbour, Dame Siobhain McDonagh, for sharing her story. It was very powerful.

This is a nasty scam, particularly in the way it targets women on the school run. It is also linked to organised crime, just as we saw with the spate of catalytic converter thefts in London a few years ago. The statistics do not show the whole picture. I reiterate the advice to our constituents: always be aware, get a dashcam, collect evidence such as photos, videos and statements—and report it.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered the matter of tackling crash for cash insurance fraud.

Sitting suspended.