Simon Read: Crooks hit more than premium costs

Crashing for cash is a crime that costs each British driver around £40 a year through increased premiums on their motor insurance. Yet, as we reported earlier this month, more than a million motorists have thought about staging a motor accident in order to make a claim on their insurance. More shockingly some 340,000 say they having already successfully done so.

I hope that the news this week that a serial crasher – or fraudster as he should be better described – has been jailed for four-and-a-half years makes people think again about operating the scam. It's not just the cost to everyone else that I object to, but the fact that for the scam to work, an innocent victim has to be duped. And often the victims suffer far worse than simply losing their no-claims bonus.

The crook jailed this week was Mohammed Patel, pictured, a 24-year-old Manchester man. Amazingly for one so relatively young, he clocked up nearly 100 staged car crashes, duping his victims and the insurance industry out of a whopping £1.6m. Patel is believed to have charged just £500 a time to crash his clients' cars and apparently had a queue of people lining up to use his unsavoury services.

His method was simple. He would drive in front of innocent motorists and then brake hard, forcing them to crash into the back of his vehicle. He would then claim to be the victim with innocent drivers shaken up by the smash seemingly all too willing to believe him. He was only caught it seems because he had a favourite smash zone – at a roundabout in front of an office building in Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester. Office workers noticed the number of accidents and informed police who quickly brought the odious fraudster to justice.

As anyone who has ever been involved in a crash – even a simple bump – will know, the shock can be long-lasting, even leading to the need for counselling in some cases. So while Patel and his crooked cronies were staging their money-making stunts, their victims were, you could say, being mentally and physically assaulted. Against that human cost, the £1.6m swindle counts for nothing and anyone contemplating a similar scam should consider the horror they could be bringing into someone else's life.

*The energy price wars are continuing apace with OVO Energy launching a market-beating energy plan on Thursday. It replaced First:Utility as the cheapest supplier and meant, for the first time, the two cheapest players in the market are both outside the big six. That should be a wake-up call for the big suppliers which appear to have been keeping prices high, despite plummeting wholesale costs.

But there's a greater energy battle going on which needs to be sorted as a matter of urgency. One in four families are struggling to afford heat and power, which means the Government is failing in its battle against "fuel poverty". The number of households where at least 10 per cent of income is spent on gas and electricity is expected to climb to 6.6 million this year. That's a statistic which shames the nation.

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