How do investigators deal with car accidents

Right of way ignored? - The scam of the accident fraudsters

COLOGNE. At some point the insurance company's clerk became suspicious. Within a few weeks, he kept receiving reports of damage with photos of an accident car in front of a garage. The garage looked familiar.

He researched older documents - and indeed: Over the course of the year, pictures of vehicles involved in an accident were regularly taken in front of the same garage and sent to the insurer. The clerk rightly suspected fraud - by a so-called autocrasher gang.

Insurance broker Johannes Brück from Düsseldorf can still remember the case well. “The scam used by fraudsters is always the same.” They lurk in the car in a confusing place such as a roundabout or with right-before-left regulation and give the victim the right of way with a show of hands.

Prepared witnesses

When the unsuspecting driver drives off, they also accelerate, deliberately causing a rear-end collision. The fraudster later denies the show of hands. Then accomplices in the person of prepared witnesses, experts and lawyers come into play. Brück: "You claim that the victim disregarded the right of way or braked abruptly and thus caused the accident".

The General Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) assumes that almost ten percent of all vehicle damage is so-called dubious damage, including cases of car crashers and car bums. "The damage caused to motor insurers by fraud is estimated at around two billion euros annually," says Andreas Müller-Pahl, crime expert at GDV. Around 1.3 billion euros of this is accounted for by motor vehicle liability, the remainder by comprehensive insurance. "The fraudsters get rich at the expense of our honest customers."

The perpetrators are usually organized gangs with many members, in which those involved sometimes appear as alleged victims and sometimes as witnesses to accidents. "If there is a crash, the fraudster submits a report to the insurance company of the other party involved in the accident, which quantifies the repair costs," says an Allianz spokeswoman.

The amount is collected, but the damage is only temporarily repaired. “The next accident is quickly provoked, cashed again - and the blame is always passed on to the other driver.” Since different motor insurers are affected, the perpetrators often went unnoticed for years.

It is therefore extremely difficult for the police and insurers to identify such fraud. "As a rule, this only comes to light by chance," says Broker Brück. For this reason, motorists themselves should be vigilant and inform the police and insurers if something seems strange to them after an accident, advise insurers and consumer advocates.

The GDV and the Stiftung Warentest have collected evidence that indicates a provoked accident. Popular places are junctions in parallel lanes, roundabouts, large parking lots such as those in front of supermarkets or intersections where the right of way has recently been changed.

Secure evidence!

The fraudsters often drive a luxury car that usually already has various dents. According to the appraiser, who belongs to the gang, high repair costs are due. "Offenders like to seek out young inexperienced drivers or older drivers," says Stiftung Warentest. Even strangers are easy victims.

Another indication: "After the collision, the opponent appears calm and routine, like someone who has not experienced it for the first time." And: "Witnesses appear out of nowhere who seem to know the other party involved in the accident".

Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of an intentional accident should definitely call the police, even if it is just a sheet metal damage. It is also important to secure evidence and take photos of both vehicles involved in the accident before the scene of the accident is cleared.

With this, those affected can help themselves. "If the fraud is proven by police investigations, we refuse to pay the opposing damage," said a spokeswoman for the HUK-Coburg. "If we encounter inconsistencies during the regulation ourselves, we initiate investigations if there is a chance of success in order to be able to prove the innocence of our customer." If that is the case, the insurer refuses to pay.