Urgent action is needed to tackle the number of British Asian gangs defrauding insurance companies of millions of pounds each year by staging bogus crashes, experts have claimed.
Leading crime fighters said the so-called “crash for cash” scam is a problem in the Asian community, with dozens of crooks working together to make false claims for vehicle damage and injuries.
Around 153 people of south Asian origin have been convicted over the fraud across the country, according to analysis by Eastern Eye of cases between 2009 and 2016.
They were jailed for staging fake collisions in Birmingham, Bury, Oldham, Manchester, Leeds, Essex, London, Huddersfield, Luton, Reading and Slough.
In one case, 33 people pleaded guilty in Luton, Bedfordshire, in 2011 for faking collisions, putting in claims for non-existent crashes and inflating personal injury claims.
A recent case saw Fazal Khan, from Birmingham, given a 20-month sentence last month for trying to claim almost £10,000 for a staged crash.
Tarique Ghaffur, a former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, believes more specialist officers are needed.
Ghaffur, founder of security firm Community Safety Development, told Eastern Eye: “Cash for crashes is a huge community issue perpetrated by the litigious society we live in.
“The organised aspect of it has long been seen and proven to be a south Asian issue. The whole supply chain from providing cars, drivers and then follow up professional services such as medical and legal seems to come from known networks and contacts from the community.
“It further impacts on negative stereotyping of our communities. People who are making large sums of money out of criminal practice become dysfunctional and negative role models in the heart of the communities, leading to further exploitation of the vulnerable.
“Often insurance firms are left to deal with this issue but the police should take a more active specialist ro-le in bringing perpetrators to justice.”
Crash for cash fraud costs the insurance industry an estimated £340 million per year. And the con adds around £44 a year to premiums for every motorist.
Nazir Afzal, chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and a former chief prosecutor, said his brother was targeted by fraudsters.
He told Eastern Eye: “My brother in Birmingham was sat at a pedestrian red light and the guy in front of him reversed into him. It looked like he [his brother] hit the back of his car.
“I don’t know if it’s more prevalent in any one community, I do know it’s an issue in the south Asian community. Money is sadly readily available to be paid out in such matters.
“All the agencies need to tighten their procedures, that has been happening, it’s less likely now for these people to get away with it.”
It comes after a Channel 5 documentary last month exposed a gang of British Asians who arranged a crash in order to make a false claim for injuries and vehicle damage.
The taxi drivers were filmed in northern England by undercover journalist Paul Connolly staging a crash. When confronted by him later, the men denied any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Birmingham was named as the number one hotspot for bogus insurance claims in 2015, according to research by Aviva. A quarter of the 3,000 bogus cases made came from the Midlands city.
Neil Thomas is a former detective inspector for West Midlands Police and a director at Asset Protection Unit (APU) Ltd, an investigation firm.He said criminals are now targeting young motorists and those with a clean driving licence to avoid being caught.
Thomas said: “Crash for cash scams can squeeze through the cracks for fraudsters, who generally see it as a low-risk opportunity. Police are working with the insurance industry and private sector to identify geographic hotspots and key crime facilitators.
“Police intelligence databases mostly contain details of people who have already been convicted or suspected of offences, which is why fraudsters tend to favour drivers with ‘clean’ records who have not come to the attention of the police.
“Ethical, lawful and effective data sharing agreements are in place between law enforcement authorities and key industry stakeholders like APU Limited, which can help police fill any intelligence gaps.”
He added devices in cars called telematics are being used to combat the crime. “Telematics units are used by insurers to provide driver behaviour feedback that help lower premiums.
“Depending on the device, telematics boxes can capture data from the vehicle including the harshness of braking, excessive speed and even seat belt activation.
“This data can prove invaluable to professional investigators like APU, and used as evidence much like the data from an aircraft’s ‘black box’.
“APU investigated a series of staged collisions, which helped the Metropolitan Police convict 17 criminals and secure prison sentences of between 16 months and five years.”