Discovering one instance of fraud triggered Aviva to submit another referral to the IFED, highlighting a false claim which was previously missed by the insurer

Michael Smith, 47, of Goring Road, Southgate, has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and 120 hours of unpaid work for making bogus car insurance claims based on collisions and theft in a bid to fraudulently gain around £25,000.

Smith was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court today (17 August 2022), where he was also suspended from driving for 18 months and ordered to pay £6,318.78 in compensation and costs.

The fraudster previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation on Wednesday 1 June 2022 at Westminster Magistrates Court.

Detective constable Justin Hawes, from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), said: “It seems that Smith thought he was on to a winner by buying damaged vehicles from salvage car dealers and using them to claim for damage and theft on his insurance. He even went so far as to change his name to enable his fraudulent plot.

“Thanks to the stringent checks made by the insurers and their collaborative work with us, we were able to stop Smith from defrauding the companies out of around £25,000.”

The first fraud

Smith took out a three-day car insurance policy for a Toyota Rav-4 in the name of Michael Gold on 29 September 2019.

On the final day of the policy, Smith called his insurer to report his car had skidded in the rain and hit a tree earlier that day in Chelmsford.

He claimed significant damage to the front of the vehicle and that he had a nosebleed and headache because of the crash.

The car was picked up by a vehicle recovery company on the same day and taken into storage.

Smith then amended a separate existing policy taken out with Aviva to cover the same Toyota Rav-4 on 22 October 2019.

Two days later, Smith reported to the insurer that his car had been stolen overnight from outside his home address.

During the call, he confirmed that he had purchased the vehicle on the day he amended his policy.

Aviva was later notified by a car auction company that they were already storing a Toyota Rav-4 with the same number plate in relation to a claim with another insurer.

Aviva attended the storage site where the car had been held for three months and confirmed that this same vehicle could not have been stolen.

Smith, meanwhile, provided Aviva with a copy of the receipt – showing that he had purchased the vehicle from a lettings company on the day his policy was amended.

After both insurers made referrals for investigation, the IFED unit executed a warrant at Smith’s home – exposing evidence showing the vehicle in the names of both Smith and Gold.

The vehicle recovery company informed IFED that the Toyota Rav-4 had dust, damage and cobwebs upon collection and that the battery was dead – suggesting a lack of use.

The unit also traced the ownership of the car, which revealed it had been bought from a salvage car dealer on 29 September 2019 in a damaged state.

The lettings company, furthermore, confirmed they had never sold cars and the headed receipt was fake.

Exposing the fraud then triggered Aviva to make an additional referral for one of Smith’s earlier claims.

The second plot

On 20 August 2019, Smith amended his Aviva policy to cover a Mercedes-Benz.

The next day, Smith claimed he had been involved in a road traffic collision where significant damage to the vehicle had been caused and the airbags had been deployed.

Smith provided Aviva with proof of purchase for the Mercedes-Benz from the same lettings company he would later claim to have bought the Toyota Rav-4.

The car was then found by officers to have been damaged in a collision in May 2019 – proved by dash-cam footage.

The vehicle was subsequently passed onto a salvage car dealer and purchased by Smith in a damaged state on 16 August 2019.

Checks with the DVLA revealed Smith’s name on his driving recod had been changed five times.

During interview, Smith remained silent in response to all questions asked.

Carl Mather, special investigations unit manager at Aviva, said that “prompt collaboration and information sharing with external partners, coupled with some good old-fashioned leg work, quickly unravelled Mr Smith’s attempts to deceive his insurer”.