UK motorists have been warned about a dangerous new tactic being employed by criminals running 'crash for cash' fraud rings.
Flashing headlights to entice innocent drivers into the path of a deliberate collision at junctions or while exiting fuel stations has emerged as a worrying trend since the turn of the year.
As the UK's police forces, insurers and authorities clamp down on the traditional modus operandi of roundabout rear-end accidents, automotive anti-fraud investigation specialist APU has identified the new, more complex, method.
Dubbed 'flash for crash' by APU's unique team of former-police officers and forensic data investigators, the new tactic makes it harder for an innocent party to prove fault in the event of a legal dispute.
In the UK, some 380 false insurance claims are made daily, costing their motor industry £1.7m a year and pushing up insurance premiums.
"It is yet another example of how criminal gangs are becoming more sophisticated and attempting to stay one step ahead of suspicion," said Neil Thomas, APU's Director of Investigative Services and former Detective Inspector of West Midlands Police.
"The adoption of flashing headlights and beckoning the driver results in a 'your word against mine' situation when it comes to apportioning blame.
"By appearing to offer the right of way, the criminal simply continues his journey into a collision, holding the victim at fault for turning across him which, of course, cannot be denied under law."
In the more traditional rear-end shunt, criminals deliberately cause accidents by braking sharply in front of victims for no reason.
They often also remove brake lights in order to reduce the victim's reaction time.
The latest tactic sees cars lying in wait for victims to exit from shops, car parks or fuel stations.
The fraudster flashes their headlights, offering the victim a right of way to join a main road, but then speeds up to ensure their car is hit side-on.
The UK's Insurance Fraud Bureau is currently investigating 49 rings, responsible for around £66m in false claims.
In the five years since its inception, APU has been instrumental in the successful conclusion of some of the biggest motor fraud cases ever prosecuted in the UK, including the sentencing of fraudster Masi Naqshbandi, who was jailed for seven years and three months for staging 260 fake accidents over a 15-month period, netting around £6.5 million in false insurance claims.
N.B. In Ireland, a flash of the lights should only be used to alert other road users of your presence, and not as a signal that you are yielding right of way.