WhiplashCriminal gangs are deliberately causing car accidents so they can threaten and intimidate drivers into handing over cash at the scene of the crash.

Insurers have warned of a startling rise in a new type of crime that involves conmen smashing their car into innocent drivers.

It is a terrifying variation of a scam that already exists, known as crash-for-cash. In this scenario, fraudsters deliberately cause an accident by unexpectedly slamming on their brakes, or reversing into the vehicle behind at traffic lights.

Because of the law that states the driver behind is at fault, the crooks claim on the victim’s insurance for vehicle damage and whiplash.

Insurers have grown wise to this scam, though, and have been monitoring claims and working with the police to crack down.

So the criminal gangs have found a new way to get cash from victims. Instead of making an insurance claim, they have been caught threatening the victim at the scene of the crash, and demanding payment there and then.

Those targeted are the elderly and young women on their own or with small children in the car. Typically, crooks ask for between £50 to £200.

In one case, crooks have even bullied the victim into driving to a cash machine to withdraw funds.

In others, they have been found texting or phoning the driver in the days after the crash to complain that the damage was worse than they thought and demanding more money.

Tom Gardiner, head of fraud at Aviva, told The Mail: “Although it is early days, what we are seeing is deeply concerning — bringing back the days of highway robbery and building on the abhorrent crash-for-cash scam, where fraudsters are already putting motorists at risk of physical harm by deliberately targeting them to cause an accident.”

Crash-for-cash scams are estimated to cost the insurance industry £400million a year. This is then passed on to honest drivers in the form of higher premiums.

In recent years, insurers have been cracking down by employing teams of experts who spot patterns in claims and track down the criminal gangs that run these scams.

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at fraud specialists Asset Protection Unit, added: “This emerging trend shows just how entrepreneurial criminals can be — they just want the money and this is a faster, easier way for them to get it without being caught.

“Clearly, going through the insurance claims system poses the risk for criminals that their personal details will be recorded and previous dishonest claims or claims which weren’t paid out identified.”

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