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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 9:49 am ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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.