Insurers on the lookout for staged car accidents

Clampdown on fraud leads to more cases being referred to police for investigation

In the last two months, five people have been jailed and at least six more are due to appear in court over their alleged involvement in staged road accidents.

It follows a clampdown by insurers who have set up special investigation units in a bid to slash fraudulent insurance claims which have totalled more than $140 million annually for the past three years. They were initiated by the Insurance Fraud Committee of the General Insurance Association (GIA), whose members flag up suspect claims.

GIA executive director Derek Teo told The Straits Times: "As these spurious claims are now on the insurers' radar, more cases have been referred to the police for further investigation."

Tell-tale signs include the time and place of a reported accident. If, for example, it was in a remote part of Singapore like Sungei Tengah and took place in the wee hours of the morning, it would raise suspicion, a source close to the investigations said.

The source also revealed that some culprits are driving Singapore-registered cars to Malaysia to stage accidents - making them harder for insurers to investigate.

"Joseph" - whose real name cannot be used as he is assisting with Commercial Affairs Department investigations - has been involved in more than five staged road accidents here after being sucked in by the lure of "fast cash".

He said the masterminds behind them can rake in more than $30,000 per "accident".

"There would be at least three vehicles involved, with the sandwiched vehicle making the most insurance claims," he said. "The last vehicle is often one belonging to a company. Sometimes, the coordinator would use a tipper truck. The bigger the truck, the bigger the damage; hence, the higher the insurance claims."

Joseph first got involved four years ago when a friend offered him $800 to use his company vehicle in a chain collision. In subsequent fake accidents, he was roped in to act as a phantom driver or passenger who would later make fraudulent personal injury and property damage claims. Each time, he was paid up to $500.

"The masterminds of these accidents are often owners of car workshops," he revealed. "Some are also responsible for inducing road accidents on public roads during peak hours. They would arrange for a driver to brake his car suddenly, causing a chain collision involving other vehicles.

"These workshop owners would then stop their cars near the accident scene to offer their workshop services to those drivers involved in the accident.

"They would throw in perks to entice car owners to allow them to handle the insurance claims, which they would later inflate."

One hot spot for induced accidents is the Pan-Island Expressway towards Changi Airport, near Eunos Flyover, revealed Joseph.

"There is an overhead bridge near the Eunos exit where the coordinator of the accident would be standing and watching the traffic," said Joseph. "He would then give the signal to the driver as to when he should jam on his car brakes. Usually they would operate between 4.30pm and 6.30pm when traffic would be heavy.

"Bukit Timah Expressway towards Changi Airport, near the Dairy Farm exit, is another hot spot."

Currently there are more than 10 workshops "red-flagged" by insurers, the source said - and the list continues to grow.