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Insurance fraud at record high, says ABI

crashed car Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Motorists are having to pay higher insurance premiums as a result of false claims

Fake car crashes helped to push the level of insurance fraud to a record £1.3bn in 2013, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The figure represents an increase of 18% on the previous year.

The biggest rise was in car insurance. The number of dishonest motor claims rose by 34% to 59,900, attempting to cheat the industry out of £811m.

The ABI said fraud was now costing each household in the UK an extra £50 a year, through increased premiums.

Pet fraud

So-called "crash for cash" car insurance scams helped to contribute to the record figures.

That is when fraudsters stage a car crash, for example by slamming their brakes on at a road junction, often having disabled the brake lights.

An unsuspecting motorist then crashes into the back of the first car.

The fraudsters have witnesses on hand to show that the crash was the other driver's fault, enabling them to make an insurance claim for the damage, as well as whiplash injuries.

In one case in County Durham last year, 60 people were convicted for one of the UK's largest "crash for cash" frauds.

As many as 25 accidents were staged in the Consett area, and resulted in local residents having to pay an extra £100 on their premiums.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Insurance Fraud Bureau is investigating 110 cases of "crash for cash"

In other cases a professional golfer claimed £8,000 for an injured knee, but was later filmed giving golf lessons.

A vet was also jailed for trying to claim £200,000 in connection with the "treatment" of non-existent pets.

However, while the value of attempted fraud went up, the number of fraudulent claims overall went down.

The scale of property insurance fraud also fell - down 38% by value on 2012.

Penalties

The ABI says the recorded level of insurance fraud is increasing because more people are reporting it and more resources are being used to fight it.

The Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, a specialist police unit, has helped to prosecute 85 people since it was established in 2011.

The industry also funds the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), which was set up in 2006 to specifically tackle false motor policy claims.

It is currently investigating 110 "crash for cash" schemes across the country.

Malcolm Tarling of the ABI told BBC Radio 4's Today programme insurers were getting better at detecting fraudulent claims.

But he added: "Everyone pays for fraud. We estimate that across the country fraud adds £50 a year to the average family's insurance bill - that's £50 more than people should be paying.

"This is why the industry is investing over £230m a year in tackling fraud.

"The number of detected frauds is rising; that's because we are getting better at detecting staged accidents. We are going to continue to tackle fraud - that's what our honest customers expect us to do."

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