The Role of Digital Forensics in Tackling ‘Crash for Cash’ Insurance Fraud

As a result of our continued work with clients in the Insurance sector,  IT Group is aware of a growth in fraudulent ‘Crash for Cash’ insurance claims as a result of injuries sustained in car crashes orchestrated purely for financial gain. IT Group is often instructed to investigate the validity of such claims and has a number of forensic capabilities that can often pull the plug on fraudulent claims and uncover the true sequence of events.

‘Crash for Cash’ is an umbrella term that relates to the coordination of road traffic collisions with the aim to gain financially from the subsequent claim. In these cases, groups of people work together to engineer deliberate car crashes with often unsuspecting motorists. The perpetrators will then proceed to run up extortionate and disproportionate expenses for hire cars or repairs, coupled with several claims for whiplash.

In most cases, these groups target innocent road users. However, later developments have seen two cars crash, each with several occupants, all of whom then sue the driver of the car behind for whiplash and other expenses. All the people in the two cars ‘know’ each other and the crash is staged.

Variations on this theme include phantom crashes (that simply did not take place) or phantom passengers making claims when they were not even in the vehicle.

Using high-tech forensic tools and analysis to uncover electronic evidence contained with devices, IT Group is able to determine the validity of insurance claims of this nature and verify if these incidents are legitimate or if they have actually been carefully engineered by fraudsters.

A mobile phone device contains a wealth of data that can provide a unique insight into the behaviours and movements of the user. A combination of deleted content (text messages, emails, call histories contacts etc.) with positional information extracted from wifi data or cell site data from the phone company provide a wealth of evidence not only to prove what the user of the phone did or where (s)he was, but importantly in relation to suspected fraudulent insurance claims, where the person could not have been.

Evidence gathered by conducting cell site analysis is usually the most telling in these cases. Mobile phone mapping/tracking can determine the approximate location of an individual’s mobile phone at any given time based on their calls and texts (both sent and received). Analysis of the data will show which mobile phone mast handled any calls around the time of the alleged crash.

This information can build up a picture that will help determine the whereabouts and movements of a person’s mobile phone (and more often than not the movement of the person themselves) during that time.

Mobile forensic techniques can interrogate a mobile device at a byte level. This means that messages, photographs, website history and application usage, as well as user-generated content, can often be extracted from the device, even if attempts have been made to wipe the device of content. This information can be useful to establish if there is a relationship between claimants.

As a result of previous investigations, we have successfully proven that parties claiming to never have known each other were actually in regular contact leading up to the alleged crash.

In one recent case where it was suspected that the crash was a phantom crash, IT Group was able to analyse data from a Sat Nav device to see if the car was at the location of the alleged accident.  In a similar case, a vehicle tracker was interrogated to establish time and location and some indication of actual speed.