Social network activity helps police crackdown on personal injury claim scammers
Scouring status updates posted on social networks is proving to be an invaluable (and increasingly facilitated) tool of the trade deployed by police and insurance providers, who are collaborating on pursuing (and ultimately cracking down on) personal injury claim scammers.
According to new reports, the net is continually closing in on insurance fraudsters attempting to pull the wool over insurer’s eye, and in the process ensure that innocent policyholders’ annual premiums rocket to cover the substantial losses incurred.
There’s no escaping the fact that insurance fraud represents a seemingly lucrative business for criminally-minded individuals here in the UK, and as a direct result of their nefarious pursuits millions of drivers pay the price on their policies year in, year out.
Arguably the biggest con centres round the so-called ‘crash for cash’ racket, with the biggest scam witnessed in this category being brought to public attention in the latter part of 2015 when over 80 people were convicted in Wales as part of an ongoing investigation. And the most powerful means to unlocking the motor insurance fraud in this particular case (yet mirrored by a growing number of similar episodes) came about courtesy of scrutinising social media.
Indeed, ‘Facebook stalking’ proved decisive in bringing the guilty parties to justice on this occasion, as is the increasing picture being painted nationwide.
These crash for cash scams – which typically involve the unscrupulous participants making personal injury claims supposedly inflicted by what are, essentially staged road traffic accidents which effect other innocent and unwitting motorists – habitually cost the UK in the region of £336 million in 2015, with a total of 55,573 personal injury claims said to have been intrinsically linked to such cynical and premeditated scams carried out by criminals.
With regards to the fraud ring recently exposed in Wales, the accused members of this crash for cash-arranging fraternity had seen their actions go undetected for a number of years before they were finally apprehended via that most modern way of catching people out, social networks.
Having roped in friends and relatives – and frequenting various names and addresses to perpetuate their fraud – the gang originally showed up on the Gwent police radar after the local force received an anonymous tip-off about a stolen vehicle.
Yet this served to highlight other concerns and eventually led to the police launching ‘Operation Dino’; a complex and far-reaching criminal investigation which would ultimately prove to be the undoing of the gang and unmask what Gwent police has described as the most highly organised and largest motor insurance fraud in the UK.
Determined to establish that this group were behind an extensive crash for cash network, the force turned to Facebook in a bid to monitor their activities
Detectives uncovered a gamut of incriminating evidence simply by tracking the status updates of those under suspicion, and compiled a compendium of photos, comments, posts, likes and friends to strengthen the case. Det Con Sara Morris of the Gwent police said; “I don’t think they ever expected us to go to into the depth that we did by researching all of the social media,” going on to add; “I found pictures on people’s accounts who weren’t obviously connected, but they had posted photographs of weddings, nights out and christenings which showed many of these individuals knew each other.”
Spanning some 5 years in duration, the investigation discovered that 83 individuals played a part in the fraud; 81 guilty of conspiracy to defraud and 2 of theft. Punishments have included suspended sentences being passed down and 6 year stints behind bars being enforced, and it’s reported that 5 people are still due to be sentenced within weeks. However a further 100 people connected with this unprecedented could potentially remain at large.