/ Money

Scam watch: ‘I was targeted after a car accident’

A member received scam calls following a minor road mishap – here’s how to avoid falling into the scammer’s trap.

A Which? member wrote to us when scammers targeted him following a road accident:

‘Several months ago I had a minor car accident. No one was hurt and damage to the other car was minimal, with none to mine.

‘A few days ago, I rejected a cold call and over the next few days there were two others, one of which my wife answered.

‘She was told that it concerned an accident that I’d had. A day or two later, I got a text that said: ‘Great news. We have £2,866.21 in your name for the accident you had, to put in your bank.”

Our advice

Calls promising compensation for car accidents are common nuisance calls. Most people who receive these haven’t been in a car crash, so it’s easier to dismiss the calls. But as you were involved in an accident, it’s good you recognised it as a scam.

The scammers will try to catch your interest with the large lump-sum payment, then lock you in with a seemingly easy claim process. This is just a ruse to get your personal information or your banking details.

No third-party insurance company would ever contact you about a car accident involving you or a member of your family, and you should always question any out-of-the-blue promises of money.

If you want to stop these calls, register your number with the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which logs your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

Have you received the car accident scam phone call? How did you deal with it?

Comments
Ray Orchard says:
5 January 2019

We had a no injury accident a few years ago. The other driver agreed he was at fault and his insurance paid for the repair. We were constantly approached by various companies, who knew the date of the accident, saying that we could claim several thousand of pounds for inconvenience and injury and could claim up to 3 years after the event. We pointed out the claim was sorted and that they were encouraging a fraud. The calls continued for approx 2 years after the accident. We perhaps should have spoken to the other persons insurance company and accepted a nominal figure to ‘close the books’ on the claim.

I received a call about the”accident I had had recently” To which I replied “Oh yes are you talking about last Tuesday or the one on Friday last week?” The caller put the phone down quickly. A few weeks later I had a similar call to which I made the same response. This time however, the caller put me through to a supervisor , so I had to put the phone down! Being retired I have some spare time available to waste the time of scammers.

John Shaw says:
5 January 2019

We had a no injury accident 2017 (other driver admitted fault and claimed for whiplash). Damage to my car was sorted, but I had a succession of calls to home & mobile numbers for months afterwards, first from a claims company saying because the other driver had soft tissue injury £4000 had been set aside for me in case of a claim. I declined and said I had already stated we had no injury and was not going to lie. All other callers one by one were not answered pending a voice-mail. When none was left I blocked the number from my phone, only to get calls from very similar numbers. The ones I answered I told I don’t work with ambulance chasers – always ended the call instantly. I assumed they were insurance companies and were interested in getting commission for processing my claim.
What made me uncomfortable were the arrangements for the courtesy replacement vehicle. I said I only needed it for the coming weekend (true), but they pushed hard for me to have it as long as I wanted till my car was fixed. It came with a roof rack at a crazy rate per day – I said I didn’t need it but they insisted it had to stay on. The delivery man was friendly and helpful and advised me there were lots of minor scratches which I should note. The collection driver was brusque and off-hand, marked the ticket – car too dirty, not inspected – even though I had washed it so the minor scratches could be pointed out. The conditions laid out heavy penalties for any damage. None of this came over as “Courtesy”. All struck me as explicit profiteering at the expense of the other company.

My husband was waiting for someone to cross at a zebra crossing when a car went into the back of him. For months afterwards we received calls from ‘solicitors’. I played one along to see if they were random calls. They were not. They knew it was my car, not my husband’s, they knew the date of the accident, the registration numbers of both cars, and even my husband’s date of birth. I was left in no doubt our details had been sold on by someone connected with the insurance company or from the garage or replacement car service. I phoned the ICO and they said this happens frequently. Some months later I received a call from my insurer. They said they received an injury claim from passengers in the car that caused the accident, however the driver had been alone. I never heard from the insurance company again. I just hope they never paid out.

If your husband’s car was stationary it is difficult to see how he could have contributed in any way to the accident.

In other circumstances, a claim on your insurance could result in you paying higher premiums for years to come and since insurance companies supposedly share information to prevent fraud you might pay more even if you switch companies. It would be interesting to have some input from the insurance industry.

I presume these were calls from people trying to “help” a claim for personal injury to the occupant(s) of the husband’s car on which they could make their percentage/fee. We are innundated with an industry making money out of compensation claims, whether legitimate or fabricated, for accident, PPI and we now are seeing encouragement to claim for “mis-sold” interest only mortgages. Can all these claims be truly legitimate?

The TPS can’t stop calls from outside of the UK or from companies that don’t follow to their recommendations. And GDPR doesn’t help much either as most of these companies hide behind fake company names and phone numbers.

I am plagued constantly by 020 numbers who perhaps call me two or three times a day. Although I can blacklist each of these numbers they seem to be able to change their number at will. It has got to a point now that I wish someone would write an app that blocks telephone numbers beginning with a certain area code. I have got to a point now that if an incoming number isn’t in my contact list I don’t answer and if the call is important they will leave me a voicemail.

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Ofcom has a special list of authorised phone numbers for use by film and TV producers in making movies and programmes where it is necessary to use or show a number without potentially generating calls to a subscriber’s line.

There is no need for parasitic agents to trade these numbers and they are not “fake”, they are merely reserved in a special category of the numbering scheme. A film or programme maker needing to use such a number would probably be best advised to approach Ofcom in the first instance to get the rules on how the scheme works and ensure that their use of a number is legitimate.

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I agree with you, Duncan. I can’t think of any reason to report or promote here any American product or service that would be of little use to a UK resident and possible cause legal difficulties for them. Which? is for UK consumers. People that wish to go elsewhere for solutions to their problems are free to do so but there are usually difficulties in compatibility with UK laws and procedures [as people have discovered with importing goods liable to VAT and customs duty]. I feel it would be unreasonable for Which? or ourselves to be expected to keep up to date with and give reliable advice on such matters. It is sometimes interesting to know what goes on in other countries as possible examples of how to improve things here but it is always difficult to ensure that comparisons are like-for-like. Given that we are much better connected to the European continent and the British Commonwealth I would prefer to know more about arrangements and experience in those countries if it is relevant. The common language makes it too easy to use American references when we are actually poles apart in most practical matters [and I think most of the population wishes to remain so!].

Fascinating. I googled ‘buying fake telephone numbers’ and got a page full of ads for…buying fake ‘phone numbers. This was the first result.

Fascinating indeed. From this site:
“About Us
Fake Number’s phone numbers are recommended for drama use, such as those involving TV shows and radio entertainment, however you can also use our random phone numbers when providing documented examples on websites or in printed literature. In addition, you’ll probably find us handy if you ever want to withhold private contact details when completing test surveys and registration forms.

Our data is provided to us by industry regulators, communications providers, and local authorities. Fake phone numbers randomly generated by Fake Number are unallocated numbers that telephony companies cannot assign to customers under current legislation. This is to protect residents against the potential influx of phone calls that they may receive should their telephone numbers appear in a movie or film.”

Why should anyone call a number mentioned in a film? Is it difficult to distinguish entertainment from real life?

That wording seems identical to the ‘advertising blurb’ that Duncan referenced in his comment above. See –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/scam-watch-car-accident-compensation-call/#comment-1555651

It is obvious that it is USA-derived since it uses the term “telephony companies” which is not UK usage; we usually call them “telecom companies” or “telecom/telephone service providers”.

I don’t know, but it is possible that the use of any phone number supplied by that agent without regulatory approval is illegal. I also cannot work out the money side of the operation; there must be a payment [or some other obligation] involved somewhere along the line for using a ‘free’ “fake” phone number.

If this is making scamming and other criminal activity easier it should surely be shut down forthwith.

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I know that a lot of companies’ and other organisations’ data gets transferred to the USA for storage under various protocols and that data users are obliged under the GDPR to include that in their data privacy statements if they do that, but not all organisations send their data to the USA, some store it within their own IT systems and others send it elsewhere [which also have to be disclosed].

I am not naive enough to believe that it is entirely immune from access by third parties and is not hackable but the bar set by the GDPR is very high and any UK company that suffers a data attack or the misuse of confidential customer/client data as a result of insecure storage would face a pretty hefty fine from the ICO.

Once again you are introducing false jeopardy in relation to your supposed “disbelievers”. Nobody can believe anything when in possession of only part of the relevant information. Impressive though your archives might be, without seeing the context of everything included it is impossible to make a judgment on the implications. I have neither the time nor the inclination to undertake such scrutiny, moreover nor I do think it is necessary. It is an imperfect world and we have to live with some of the imperfections.

You have included a quotation [not marked as such], which I have read although I am not much the wiser, but where is it from? The source of a comment is often a useful guide to its provenance.

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Duncan – quite of lot of the above text seems to appear on non-official websites.

I did manage to find one official EU website:

europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/data-transfers-outside-eu/eu-us-privacy-shield_en

But that didn’t seem to carry your exact text. Was your text a “mash up” of text from many sites or just a verbatim quote from one particular site?

As other have already asked, why do you refrain from posting the source urls to these long texts? Don’t their authors and publishers deserve some credit for their production?

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The BBC does not “put… forward government policy”, Duncan. It frequently questions it. And that’s even assuming the government actually has a discernible policy – I’ve seen no evidence for that in some time.

Duncan, I never held out either the BBC or the Guardian as being paragons of truthful reporting.

I was just asking why you don’t acknowledge your co-authors when you post your long missives here.

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Duncan – of course I believe the European Union [most probably the Commission in this case] but there was nothing in your comment to tell me that it was a statement by the EU. And the same is true of your subsequent and even longer quote. It looks like a quotation from an American media source to me and it is loaded with jargon and cumbersome terminology [as well as dates without years!]. It is very difficult to distil the essence from it and put it in its proper context. Trying to substantiate things with heaps of verbiage doesn’t work. If I knew what it all meant I would be prepared to regard it as factual.

All we really want to know is that, under a cast iron protocol, data transferred to the USA for storage will be protected absolutely from unauthorised access and misuse other than as prescribed by law in respect of the law enforcement agencies and security services. Is that the case or not?

The source of a comment is part of the evidence for its credibility or provenance. Sensible people don’t believe everything in the newspapers or on a BBC website but taken together a number of independent sources add weight to a story. Even better is a statement from the organisation itself [e.g. the EU] and not a paraphrase quotation that seems to be hearsay [although, on balance, I guess it is probably correct]. If we find something on the web it is already in the public domain so there can be no harm in identifying its origins.

Your case is that all our personal data ends up in a mega-server cloud storage facility in America where it is vulnerable to interception and attack by rogue states or scammers. That could all be true but the question is – what can we do about it, and what is the superior alternative?

If cloud storage operators did not ensure sufficient security for their clients’ data, companies would look elsewhere for storage and there would be a poor return on the investment in the storage system.

Duncan – You say “ask journalists what our government are doing behind the scenes”. Has it occurred to you that the answer might be “not very much”. Because you find something in an obscure place does not mean it isn’t already in an open place. It’s usually best to look there first.

It is easy to get obsessed with the notion of secrecy and believe that everything going on in government is a conspiracy to deceive and delude the British public. We have a robust press and news media that expose lots of things using the FoI powers and other resources.

I like to know what might be going on behind the scenes but when I start exploring it often becomes clear that there’s nothing there – it’s all out in the open if you know where to look.

I have made a number of FoI requests to local authorities and government departments and have been impressed by the diligence and comprehensiveness of the answers received. I know what you are going to say – “Well that’s as maybe but you don’t know what you are not being told“. Obviously there are some things that have to remain as state secrets but it’s surprising what is available if you ask the right questions.

Have you made any FoI requests that have been balked?

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No, I am not saying it’s not true, Duncan, but I would like to know who wrote it and where it appears. It was obviously not written by the EU or the EC. It is probably a paraphrase of an EU or US document or statement or a report from a press conference or something. I have already explained that a slab of convoluted text does not mean much out of context and I obviously do not understand it as easily as you clearly do.

My two questions from previous posts remain –

1. All we really want to know is that, under a cast iron protocol, data transferred to the USA for storage will be protected absolutely from unauthorised access and misuse other than as prescribed by law in respect of the law enforcement agencies and security services. Is that the case or not?

2. Your case is that all our personal data ends up in a mega-server cloud storage facility in America where it is vulnerable to interception and attack by rogue states or scammers. That could all be true but the question is – what can we do about it, and what is the superior alternative?

Finally, what is the meaning of your last sentence above in this context [i.e. data protection]? [John this country is heavily repressed in what can say about at least one Middle East country while tearing others to bits] It’s a riddle, but if you mean Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or Iran [or some other country] why not say so and substantiate it? No – please don’t bother – it’s not a UK consumer issue.

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I have just realised this Conversation is about car accident compensation claims so I don’t know how it got turned into a debate about privacy protocols for cloud data storage. I thought we were in The Lobby!

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emmbeedee says:
5 January 2019

I had a similar experience two & a half years ago. I had an accident which sadly was entirely my fault. Damage to my vehicle was minimal & I didn’t claim. The other vehicle was damaged & understandably, the other driver claimed. I reported the accident to my insurance company, giving my mobile as my contact number.
Subsequently I received numerous calls to my mobile urging me to claim as the other driver had apparently claimed for whiplash. I refused to claim as I was not injured in any way & when I asked where they had obtained my details from they all said “the Insurance Database”. They said the claim was listed as outstanding because I hadn’t claimed. I complained to my insurance company but they did not seem to be too concerned.
With regard to unwanted calls to our landline, we have a very simple, very effective & cheap way of dealing with them. We have an answerphone, set to answer after two rings. When a call comes in, my wife, who is normally sitting in her armchair alongside the answerphone, looks at the little screen on the phone. If she recognises the caller, she picks up the phone. If not, she lets it run on to the answerphone & listens to the call. If it is a call we need, from say the hospital, she picks up, but otherwise waits for the caller to leave a message.
In the vast majority of cases, no message is left. In fact, they ring off as soon as our message commences. This system works so well that we haven’t had a nuisance call on our landline for years. I assume that our number is probably listed by the scammers as answerphone only, but whatever, the system works for us. My wife often comments that the answerphone is the best thing we have ever bought!

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I get these calls sometimes, and ask the caller for the police incident number and / or insurance reference, so that I know we’re talking about the same incident. They (invariably, naturally) don’t have one, and are usually nonplussed. I say that if they don’t have an incident or case number, they can’t be bona fide. End of call, as they then hang up

peterhemsley2@ticali.co.uk says:
6 January 2019

I have a BT8500 phone .This has a built in security feature in that only a number in the phones directory will get direct access and the phone will ring. Any other caller is asked to state their name, after which the phone will ring. When answered the system will ask if you wish to accept the call from ————? This has cut down most , if not all of the cold callers.
Other phones are available with this facility.

Peter, that sounds great. When I was a young engineer, all my big bosses had PA’s or Secretaries who performed that (and other) functions for them.

Neil says:
6 January 2019

Surely this as much as anything warrants a Which? investigation as it seems to make a complete mockery of GDPR legislation, and clearly on a huge scale.
After a minor shunt back in September I started, and still continue to receive a barrage of calls from wide variety of phone numbers, often several calls a day. All of those calling know, when questioned, my mobile phone number, my full name, the name of the other person involved, the date, my car registration number and the rough details of the incident.
My insurance company absolutely assures me that they have only shared the details as necessary to resolve the claim (e.g. instruct a repairer), and yet it is only this company that I have shared these details with, and made it clear to them that I do not wish my details shared for marketing or other purposes.
So someone here is in clear breach of GDPR legislation, but it doesn’t seem possible to find out who.
As others have posted above, the main suspect seems to be the national database that is used by insurance companies to try and tackle fraud being itself accessed by unscrupulous companies. The irony of ironies is that these unscrupulous companies are then using the details on the database to contact people and persuade them to make fraudulent claims.
Which? – surely you should be looking in to this?

Neil says:
9 January 2019

Many thanks Amelia, I’ll watch with interest! Happy to provide more details directly to Which? if needed. Hearing the news today about further clampdowns on cold calling reminded me, I have challenged a couple of the callers to say they shouldn’t be cold calling, and they say “you must have ticked a box somewhere saying we can”. I am absolutely sure that I have not done that with my insurance company (and checked with them to confirm and they agree), yet this is the only organisation I passed all the personal details to that these firms seem to have.
However one of the cold callers (helpfully!) suggested that their “permission” was normally related to people having used a price comparison site at some time in the past. I’m always very careful to tick/untick to avoid permission for any marketing contact, but I know some price comparison sites can be a bit ‘tricky’ as to how they handle this. However, I also know that no comparison site would have had the information the callers are in possession of, so whether firms are taking the view that anyone who inadvertently ticks (or falls to untick) a box anywhere on any site at any time has, as far as they are concerned, given universal permission I don’t know, but I suspect they rely on people being unclear about what new legislation actually does or doesn’t allow them to do. What’s become clear to me is that the extra powers of GDPR and cold-calling clampdowns are one thing, but pinning any specific cold-calling company down to a specific breach looks like it could be much harder to do!

I too had an accident which was no fault of mine in Dec 2017. No one was injured and I have been driving my new car since January 2018. All last year I have been plagued by people from the so called accident support service who won’t go away even if I am rude to them. They call on my mobile as I have call guardian on my land line and no matter how many times I report their number they come back with a new one. Mercifully I haven’t heard from them since Christmas so perhaps 12 months is what it takes

B.Pigott says:
8 January 2019

I had a phone call about “my accident”. I had had an accident-broken an ankle after falling down a step but I was pretty certain this was a scam. As soon as I said I had had an accident, though did not say it wasn’t a car accident. I was immediately transferred to another person who totally lost interest when I said I was not a car accident and I was on the TPS. I’ve never heard from them again and do not seem to get many odd calls.

Peter Williams says:
12 July 2019

Like many below – had a small accident a few months ago. Received a sum for the insurance company ‘in lieu’ of write-off (older Mercedes) and repaired locally.

However I have received calls from 2 similar numbers recently 01513635591 (the most recent). Apparently from National Claims Management (which I can’t find on web search) . Couldn’t really make much sense – sounds like – sorry guys -a NON UK Call Centre.

The number appears not to exist.
Where do these guys get our names from?
Why keep ringing with what appears to be false information?
TPS doesn’t appear to pick up these calls
I know there are increasing penalties for directors of companies acting illegally – but they just appear untraceable – meaning any legislation is almost useless in these circumstances.
I suspect this is a fake company, with fake numbers and if (after hundreds of nuisance calls) they get some interested party then they ‘sell’ the lead to a legitimate company.
Telecoms industry somehow needs to do better or be instructed to do better or provided with tools to do better.

Daniel says:
28 August 2019

I like accepting the call to be put through to a human and then making an “article 15 of the GDPR Right Of Access to data request”, these normally result in the company hanging up but they legally have to answer within 30 days once the request has been made.
Makes no odds as most of these companies operate illegally anyway.
I received a phone call about this and then when they hung up my wife received a phone call from the same number within 5 seconds.

The Government needs to force ISPs to just block all VOIP internet-calls from outside of the UK and force legitimate companies to provide contact details e.g. not using fake numbers. Doubt we’ll ever see that though.

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Janet Kiff says:
5 November 2019

My daughter, driving my car, clipped the back of another car, with no damage to either vehicle, in February of this year. Despite the other party making no claim, I have been plagued by an outfit calling themselves, First Response Legal at least twice a week, since. They do not exist as an official entity I have tried everything I can think of to trace who is behind them, They use a different number each time to evade call blocking. My insurers (who have now lost my business) and the underwriters deny any breach of their data security. It is a disgrace. I have just watched Claim and Shame on the BBC. Insurance Companies have strong resources to Protect themselves from scams, but they don’t protect us, their customers, from this kind of activity. My daughter works full time, I am retired and have had to bear the brunt of this. It is very stressful. I always know it’s them even if I don’t answer, I use the Who Called Me? website. If you google them, there is a very interesting and funny YouTube video where someone – an actor – scams them back!

Out of interest, if the other party made no claim, how do you suppose First response Legal came to know of the accident?

Janet Kiff says:
5 November 2019

My daughter notified our insurers. I have been told by another insurance company, wh I told of the incident, and asked about data protection,n whilst seeking a quote that all notifications are obliged to be logged onto a national database because of the “crash for cash” problem that has been going on for a number of years,

[This comment has been removed at the request of the commenter. Thanks – mods]

Janet Kiff says:
13 November 2019

Thank you for the information about Optimal. I will try and have a look at their website. I had to buy the BT Advanced Phone with 100 call blocking and answer machine in order to deal with this problem and give away my perfectly ok phone and answering machine on Freecycle. As I am a pensioner there are better things I could have done with the money,

Mike May says:
21 February 2020

Got one of these calls today from someone claiming to be from AFC. Already on the TPS.

Currently I have had 5 calls all saying the other driver now claiming injuries and there is money put aside for me. Total rubbish. Where do they get the information from? They have all my details, other driver and date location of crash?

gill Charman says:
15 April 2020

Thank you so much for commenting on this scam I nearly got caught I was out walking the dog and 2 different callers sounded so sincere and kept reassuring me that because the other driver had made a minor injury claim I was entitled as well They said they would send documentation through for me to read through and sign if I was happy with it They knew all the 3rd party details and the car registrations .Luckily I told them to ring back when I got home I then discovered it was all a scam. When they rang I told them I had checked them out and know its a scam I informed them If they rang again I would report them

Had two calls from a company called First Response. Because the voice sounded like a northerner I didn’t immmediately hang up. When he mentioned an accident I had in February I realised it was some kind of scam. I hung up and blocked the caller. Just had another call, different number, same guy. It was an 0800 number so I thought it was genuine, but he repeated exactly what he had said before, ‘it’s about the accident you had in February.’ I replied, ‘What, the fictitious one? F**** off’ and promptly hung up and blocked the number.

Ooooh! You devil, Shelley.

Good for you. Hope he goes where you sent him and doesn’t come back.

Em says:
11 May 2020

I always admit to having two accidents and ask them which car they are phoning about.