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

Part of the debate – 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

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.