Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 13 January 2012

Ill-gotten gains

Under normal circumstances, I'm not the sort of person who tells a complete stranger to b***er off.

Yesterday, however, was different. The refurbishments had just hit a snag when a lath-and-plaster ceiling suddenly decided to start a new life as a floor, necessitating expensive and time-consuming repairs, while an abundance of ladders and wet paint has turned every journey upstairs into a gymnastic exercise.

Naturally, I was upstairs when the phone rang; expecting the builders, I dashed down with as much speed as the obstacle course permitted to answer it. What followed was, alas, a script with which I have become all too familiar.

Last year, someone backed - very gently - into the side of my stationary car in a car park lane, causing a small dent which was fixed on his insurance; as I was in my car at the time, I was bombarded for months afterwards with calls urging me to claim for non-existent injuries.

Their evident bafflement that I was not prepared to lie - "The money has already been allocated; all you have to do is claim it!" - suggested that the usual response is rather different. No wonder MPs are calling for tighter control of payouts:

The committee pointed out that there has been a 70% rise in motor insurance injury claims in the past six years, despite a 23% drop in the number of casualties actually caused by road accidents.

The calls eventually stopped - until yesterday, that is, when the caller not only suggested that I should make a claim but said he had evidence that I had been admitted to hospital following the accident; when I said he was mistaken, he became aggressively insistent - hence my unaccustomed rudeness.

There was a certain irony to this blatant incitement to commit fraud on the very day that the issue once again makes the news. Perhaps my details, initially sold on by the insurers or repairers, have now trickled down past the merely shady into a stratum where fake hospital records and thuggish tactics abound.

The figure bandied about at present is that fraudulent claims are now adding £90 to the cost of car insurance, up from the £74 suggested last year, when a member of the Association of British Insurers described whiplash as a 'fraudster's dream'.

I wrote this last April, but it's as true now as it was then:

They have turned car insurance into a lottery – sure, you pay a bit extra up-front, but if your number comes up, there’s at least £1,500 waiting to be claimed every time. Having someone run into me and freely admit liability was the equivalent of a winning Premium Bond.


  1. I've had similar calls and never been in an accident. Those people must be just fishing.

    They've been trying it on with mis sold payment protection insurance aswell. One woman I spoke to flat refused to beleive I had not taken out any credit what so ever in the last ten years.


  2. I'd be tempted to ask for the company name and telephone number, then say sweetly 'By the way, you AREaware I've been recording this call, aren't you?'

    You don't have to have been. I think the mere suggestion that you have will induce fear... ;)

  3. Bucko, I had assumed it must be related but you may well be right. It's really quite disconcerting when someone tells you firmly that he knows you went to hospital.

    Julia, sound advice! I have done that in the past and it makes them hang up PDQ, but it requires more patience than I could have summoned up yesterday - sometimes only a swear-word will do.

  4. Macheath - It may well be related. If you had actually been to hospital I would be very concerned about how they are getting their info. Even so, you denied it so why would they push it if your obviously not interested. Cos they only want to make themselves money. Leeches.

  5. Bucko, there is another possibility; my physiotherapist's computer was recently hacked - presumably that's fertile ground for these people.

    Meanwhile, from the Mail:

    Up to two thirds of hospitals in England display posters, calling cards or leaflets for personal-injury solicitors who in turn pay them up to £50,000 a year.


  6. That's another worry, you can never be sure of the security of the people who hold your personal details.

    And I didn't know that about the hospitals. They shouldn't be doing that because compo comes out of tax money doesn't it? Surely that will do more harm to them than the 50k they get for the advertising.