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Warning: new ‘flash-for-cash’ insurance scam revealed

Be wary of leaving a junction when someone flashes their lights at you - it could well be a set-up

Flashing your headlights should only ever be done to let other road users know you are there

Flashing your headlights should only ever be done to let other road users know you are there

Police are warning motorists of a new insurance scam where fraudsters flash their lights to let drivers out of junctions and then deliberately crash into them.

The scam, known as ‘flash-for-cash’ by experts, is costing insurers and drivers millions of pounds a year, and is seemingly increasing.

Insurance fraud is nothing new. The Insurance Fraud Bureau estimates that it costs £2.1 billion a year, adding an average of £50 a year to drivers’ policies to cover the costs.

One of the most notorious scams is known as ‘crash-for-cash’, where gangs slam on the brakes for no apparent reason, often removing the bulbs in their brake lights to make it even harder for everyday motorists minding their own business to spot.

Experts warn, however, that this new scam is more cunning, because it is much harder to prove in court, often coming down to the driver’s word against the fraudster’s.

As well as putting fake repair bills in for their damaged vehicle, the gangs also claim for whiplash injuries, loss of earnings and replacement car hire, often netting them thousands of pounds per ‘accident’.

They generally target newer and more expensive looking cars, as well as vulnerable motorists, including elderly people and women with children.

As a rule, drivers are technically not supposed to flash their lights to give way to other motorists, but the practice is widespread and motorists up and down the country generally accept it as an invitation to proceed.

Rightfully, many drivers feel frustrated that a sign, which is seen as good manners, is being used against them to extort money.

When should I flash my headlights?

According to The Highway Code:

  • Flashing your headlights should only ever be done to let other road users know you are there.
  • They should never be used to convey messages i.e. allowing a driver to pull out of a junction.
  • They should never be used to intimidate other road users.
  • Never assume that flashing headlights are a signal to allow you to proceed. Always use your own judgment.

Detective Inspector Dave Hindmarsh from the Metropolitan Police commented:

“The problem is a growing problem. Financially it costs insurers £392m a year - that impacts on motorists as it's an extra £50 to £100 on every person's premium so that's a financial cost.

“There are emotional costs as if you're involved in a crash you could well lose your confidence, and if your passengers are children they may well become wary of being passengers in cars, and of course you may get injured or killed.”

The Insurance Fraud Bureau can offer advice to drivers who think they have been involved in an insurance scam accident, as well as help in spotting fraudsters before it’s too late.

About the Author

Jonathan Munton

Staff writer at Arnold Clark

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