Fraudsters editing vehicle photos to add fake damage in UK insurance scam

A surge in fraud cases in which photos are manipulated to show fake car crash damage is alarming insurers and helping to push motor insurance costs up to record levels.

The insurer Allianz said incidents where apps were used to distort real-life images, videos and documents increased by 300% between 2021-22 and 2022-23, and it added that this had “all the signs of becoming the latest big scam to hit the insurance industry”.

Rival insurer Zurich UK said it was also seeing more and more claims that had been doctored using so-called “shallowfake” technology, and that this was “becoming one of the most emerging threats from a counter-fraud point of view”.

While deepfakes are hoax images, videos or documents typically created using AI, shallowfakes can be created using conventional editing software on a phone and apps such as Photoshop.

Allianz, which includes the general insurance arm of LV=, said in one case an individual had a photo of his van posted on his social media page as part of his business and ended up having a claim pursued in his name for an accident that never took place.

LV= received images of his vehicle from the fraudsters that seemed to show the front bumper had been cracked in the alleged accident, along with a fake repair invoice for more than £1,000.

The LV= fraud team investigated and found the photo was identical to the one on the social media page, except for the fact that the image had been doctored to show the fake damage.

Allianz said the rapidly changing nature of fraudulent activities such as shallowfake technology and the rise of deepfakes “pose big risks to UK consumers”.

Scott Clayton, the head of claims fraud at Zurich UK, said recently that shallowfakes were most prevalent in motor insurance. He highlighted how fraudsters were using image editing software to add fake registration numbers to vehicles that had been written off.

“We have seen an increase in people locating total loss vehicles on salvage agents’ websites and then implanting a registration number on to that car. There are then claims made for that vehicle, and a claims handler assessing this claim would take that at face value – that it is that actual vehicle,” Clayton said.

Zurich said claims that had been completely manipulated using deepfake technology – often involving totally fake engineer reports and repair estimates – were also on the rise.

Clayton said that in the past, criminals who intended to scam insurers with “crash-for-cash” claims needed to physically have vehicles crash into each other. “People can now create a fraudulent claim entirely from behind their computer and extract significant sums of money because these cars are total losses.” he added.

Rising levels of fraud have been one of the factors contributing to higher motor insurance premiums.

This week it emerged that the average price paid for comprehensive motor insurance in the UK was about a third (33%) – or £157 – higher in the first quarter of this year than in the same period in 2023. The data was issued by the Association of British Insurers.


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