Bradford fraud factory shut down

09/10/2009

A judge has praised the six members of a West Yorks car cloning cartel who were recently jailed by Leeds Crown Court for providing new identities to stolen cars worth nearly half a million pounds.

Judge Scott Wolstenholme described them as intelligent and industrious young men, able to make a positive contribution to society. Their conspiracy, he noted, was well organised, professional and motivated by a real passion for high-value motor vehicles.

He nevertheless felt impelled to sentence the sextet to a total of 16 years for this “serious professional crime.”

Scotty said the slick sixsome, had taken advantage of the fact that the DVLA did not carry out physical checks on vehicles imported by private individuals. “The public is sick,” he said, “of car crime, resulting in the loss of cherished and valuable property.”

Chief conspirator Padala Satti Reddy, 26, got three years and seven months. His brother Padala Somi Reddy, 24, Reuben Browne, 24, and Naveed Akhtar, 31, each got three. Sundeep Matharu, 24, and Tahir Mahmood, 24, got just 21 months.

The close-knit group, all from the same small area of Bradford, obtained details of new cars sold to overseas buyers, then forged documents for stolen cars of similar make, model and colour suggesting they had been imported. The clones were registered with the DVLA and then sold on, used in insurance scams, or simply driven by members of the gang.

Seventeen vehicles including a BMW and two Range Rover Sports models had been cloned, while the gang had ten further identities read to use. Mark Pronger, the detective whose investigation nailed the gang, said the sentences reflected the professional nature and high value of the conspiracy.


30/09/2009

A quarter of UK motorists deny ever having been distracted while driving.

The other three quarters may be perpetually gawping at attractive pedestrians, billboards, nice views and low-flying aircraft – but at least they’re not filthy rotten liars.

The most common distractions, according to a press release put out by the AA are attractive people in other cars, attractive pedestrians, and a “nice view”.

Men are three times more likely than women to be distracted by attractiveness (70% compared with 25%). So presumably – to keep the average distraction figures up around 75% – women must be much more distracted by scenery of the non-euphemistic variety.

“We do notice an increase in the number of minor shunts during August,” said the AA’s Douglas Simon, when “attractive members of the opposite sex are perhaps showing off a lot of their suntan!”

Such distractions, he argues, “are likely to be a factor in the accident statistics, although most people are unlikely to admit it on a claim form!”

But think before you ogle, he urges: “A collision would ruin your journey.” Did you ever consider that? “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel,” he admonishes. Hands on the wheel? What kind of perverts does he take us for?

“Our best advice is to stop in a safe place,” he concludes, to appreciate views or “other roadside features.”

If that’s really their best advice, Bankstone News is in no great hurry to sample further specimens of the AA’s wit and wisdom.


25/09/2009

In traditional aborigine society as a boy approached puberty the elders of the tribe would lead him out into the bush at night and scare the bejeezus out of him with bullroarers. The terror their unearthly sound inspired was a crucial part of the intentionally traumatic transition from boy to man.

Here in the UK, the equivalent rite of passage involves young men buying mechanically suspect turbo-charged superannuated superminis and being scared shiftless by the cost of insurance.

Alcoholics Anonymous this week unveiled some fascinating insights into the seminal sociological phenomenon that is acquiring your first car. Among their key findings were: boys get their first motor younger than girls; girls are far less likely to pay for theirs themselves; first cars are typically between seven and ten years old, and usually cost under two grand.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Car Insurance is that rare beast a company spokesperson quoted at length in Bankstone News without so much as a hint of misconstrual, traduction or idle derision. “At a time when the cost of car ownership is higher than ever,” he says, “with both fuel and insurance costs rising steeply, getting a car remains a priority – especially for young men.

“Unfortunately, one out of every five will also experience a serious accident within their first year of driving. Young men are twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a collision than young women and although the number of accidents on Britain’s roads is thankfully falling, the proportion suffered by young drivers is rising.

“Most young drivers expect their first year’s car insurance premium to be expensive, but it still comes as a shock when the cost might be twice what their first car is worth. The cars they are buying tend to be more powerful than they used to be. This contributes to higher accident rates and thus higher premiums.”


18/09/2009

Direct Line has been in the news taking a high-profile stand against meaningless fines for uninsured young drivers.

What is the bloomin’ point – the comparison-averse insurer asks – of fining some kid £50 for driving uninsured when it’s saving them two or three grand a year?

Uninsured drivers cost other road users something like thirty quid a year on their premiums. But the latest Government rethink could see fines fall from the current average £185 to as little as £50 (if paid within 30 days).

How can this make sense compared with £1000 for not having a TV licence or dodging your bus fare Direct Line wants to know? Getting nabbed with spray-can in hand can get you fined £5k – but how many people lose their lives to graffiti? Probably fewer than the 160 killed each year by uninsured drivers.

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting at Direct Line, says, “The severity of penalties must act as a deterrent to those considering driving without insurance. Of the 1.5 million uninsured drivers on our roads, only 260,000 are convicted each year. If the fines are less than the average insurance premium then it’s not going to stop them re-offending.”

All very convincing. So why has no one stood up and made a fuss about all this before? Could it possibly be for fear of spelling out to younger drivers that they’re better off without insurance?

18/09/2009

Fashion house BIBA has welcomed the Department for Transport’s “tough new plans” for cracking down on uninsured vehicles – due to come into force next year.

Under the proposals motorists can be fined £100 for owning an uninsured vehicle – even if they never drive it.

Smarter cross-referencing of databases will trigger warning letters to the owners of thousands of apparently uninsured vehicles warning them they’ll be fined unless they insure their vehicle. If the vehicle remains uninsured it could then be seized and destroyed. There will, the Government claims, be “nowhere to hide.”

Graeme Trudgill, BIBA’s Technical and Corporate Affairs Executive enthused: “It is fantastic news that will lead to safer roads for all. BIBA has been working with the industry and Government to find a solution and believes these new plans will benefit all road users.”

Trudgers claims comparing the Motor Insurers Database and the DVLA registered keepers database is a great idea, particularly since “both already exist.”

More controversially, he suggested that “It is important for people to stay insured for financial protection and to comply with the law.”

Curiously, BIBA reckons uninsured drivers kill 26 people each year, while Direct Line quote a much higher figure of 160. This may be because the latter are simply assuming that untraced drivers are uninsured. Either way – and regardless of whether uninsuredness was a critical factor in the fatal incidents in question – it would probably better if the individuals affected were still alive today.


18/09/2009

People are people, so why should it be (pause) you and I should get along so awfully? So pondered vaguely-pervy Essex electro-dweebs Depeche Mode back in 1984.

As clumsy as this earnest rhetoricism may seem, it’s as relevant as ever today as two tribes (lawyers and insurers) go to war over the supposed sharp practice that is… third party capture (aka third party intervention).

“Don’t, don’t you want me,” your typical PI lawyer is apt to sputter, when a potential-client-accident-victim falls for the cheap allure of an insurer’s quickie payout and forsakes the righteous path of law.

Some insurers in Northern Ireland are “deliberately settling accident claims before victims get a chance to contact a solicitor,” the Law Society gasps in consternation. (Sorry, no 80s pop reference in this paragraph.)

Not only, the soliciting professionals suggest, do such fast-tracking shenanigans risk short-changing claimants, they recklessly bypass the invaluable professional input of lawpersons and med bods.

The Law Society has gone so far as to suggest that “Victims are being actively discouraged from seeking legal advice.” This sounds only slightly less bad than being passively discouraged.

Legitimate cause for concern, then?

Nonsense, nonsense, soothes the ABI with suave plausibility: “Insurers want to help innocent victims of road accidents get their vehicle repaired, and get the care and compensation they need, as soon as possible.” Quite so, and girls just wanna have fun. Allegedly.

Surely if we could just put aside such petty squabbling and recognise our common humanity the world would be a better place for victims and non-victims alike.


10/09/2009

Nodding dog Churchill has been chewing over the claims form facts and this week spat out the somewhat drool-bespattered revelation that men in short-sleeved shirts (let’s call them computer engineers) make more claims than any other type of worker. Farmers file the fewest.

The Churchillian study looked at all named professions of which they had more than 1000 clients on their books and found “ a significant correlation between certain professions and the likelihood of having a car accident.”

Top-dog Tony Chilcott said: “The poorer claims experience associated with computer engineers, sales managers, chefs and doctors most likely reflects the long hours they work in a very stressful job.”

For what it’s worth, here are the two top tens in full (worst first):

1 Computer Engineer

2 Sales Manager

3 Chef

4 Student

5 Doctor

6 Estate Agent

7 Surveyor

8 Customer Advisor

9 Hairdresser

10 Social Worker

1 Farmer

2 Aircraft Fitter

3 Stores Personnel

4 Ambulance Driver

5 Laboratory Technician

6 Pilot

7 Caretaker

8 Agricultural Engineer

9 Green Keeper

10 Mechanical Engineer


10/09/2009

It is Bankstone News’ sober duty to report yet more evidence just in of rocketing levels of motor claims fraud.

Ordnance Survey – the UK body charged with working out the best places from which to fire cannons – have apparently interviewed exactly 74% of the UK’s leading Insurance Fraud Investigators – no idea why – and heard that fraudulent claims are showing not the slightest sign of leveling out following last year’s record levels.

Eighty per cent of investigators believe the situation will continue to get worse. Almost half report an increase in both the volume and in the monetary value of claims made.

Meanwhile 57% have seen a rise in the number of completely bogus claims made, and 54% an increase in inflated claims.

Corresponding percentages for increased reporting of other scam types were as follows:

Serial claimants 47%
Criminal gangs targeting insurers 42%
Criminal gangs targeting insurance policy holders 35%
Lying or withholding information on application forms 33%


02/09/2009

Bwaa-ha-ha! Drivers, ever feel the hairs stiffen on the back of your neck, an icy frisson cursing down your spine, an inexplicable sense of dread? Any of these, basically, and it could mean you’re unwittingly playing host to the latest scourge of the insurance claims universe.

Could it be there’s a “ghost passenger” haunting your back seat?

According to legal beagles Keoghs, Insurance claims involving such “ghost passengers” are – like the ‘bad moon’ so affectingly immortalised in song by popular music ensembles Creedence Clearwater, Sonic Youth et al – on the rise. As if their mere presence weren’t sinister enough in itself, it seems these ghouls are somehow implicated in the business of fraudulent insurance claims making.

Never ones to voice an original opinion where there’s an authority to be cited, the lawyers quote Adrian Webb, Corporate Communications Manager at esure. Commenting in “the Scotland on Sunday” Webb says tens of millions of pounds were paid out in cases involving such phantoms during 2009. Presumably this estimate includes monies paid out to spirit fraudsters in the England and the Wales as well as the Scotland, and possibly even in the top-right corner of a largish island to the west.

With less than startling originality, Webb blames the recession.

Notwithstanding their non-corporeal status, these unscrupulous wraiths, it seems, are strongly actuated by the allure of filthy lucre. Enticed by the “financial opportunities of a burgeoning compensation culture,” he says, they know “that if they work hard enough at a lie, they stand a chance of receiving a large cheque from companies who don’t investigate claims hard enough.”

Based on this eloquent and doubtless definitive testimony, Keoghs conclude that “The number of people committing insurance claims fraud by alleging that a passenger in a vehicle was injured in a crash when in fact they were not present at the scene of the accident” may be rising.

Since “injuries” to spirit beings are not generally covered by motor insurance policies, neglecting to mention the fact that a passenger is no longer in the land of the living (and therefore presumably has only a limited capacity for being demonstrably present anywhere in anything other than an eerily numinous kind of way) might perhaps be considered a graver omission.

With so few psychic claims investigators currently working, the big question for anxious motor insurers, presumably, is “Who you gonna call?”


01/09/2009

There are snuffling and shuffling sounds as financial watchdog OFT (probably looks at bit like Churchill) stirs laboriously within its luxurious City kennel, idly rakes its flank with a hind paw, and, blinking in the light of early afternoon, turns its watery gaze on comparison sites.

Disturbing rumours have reached OFT’s limply dropping ears – rumours suggesting sites like Comparethemarket.com and Confused.com may be, well, confusing. More alarmingly still, some say such sites are guilty of “dubious advertising” (Gio Compario certainly seemed pretty dubious to Bankstone News).

Now, according to The Guardian, “The OFT is seeking comments from industry and consumer groups before 18 September, when it plans to embark on a detailed examination of practices that can trick people into believing that such sites offer the cheapest prices.”

As befits another dog who watches things, OFT’s cousin FSA had a bit of a look at comparison sites a while back, nodding in a mildly disapproving way. The aggregators were told to stop flagging up-front prices for motor insurance that turned out to be significantly lower than the final quote.

BIBA, The Guardian’s report continues, has campaigned on behalf of its members against the so-called “worst offenders,” noting testily that car insurance quotes are deliberately depressed by including excesses of up to £500.

Explaining how this stance aligns with its decision to welcome Gocompare.com to its member roster, BIBA fudged its way into a fulsome endorsement: “We are not against comparison websites. We just want them to ask the right questions. Gocompare.com doesn’t use assumptions and it guarantees to give a quote that becomes the final price.”

Might this unique distinction not have made a better focal point for an advertising campaign than an unfunny fat bloke in a dinner jacket?

The paper quotes Moneysupermarket.com’s estimate that almost half of the UK’s 24 million insured drivers go online to research premium prices and notes that only Direct Line and Aviva have resisted putting their products on comparison sites.

The OFT is not expected to report

…until next year.


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