“Crash for cash” scammer introduces new scheme targeting high school students, 11 individuals, including mastermind, apprehended

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Inspector-General Law Lai-him of the New Territories North Regional Crime Unit gave a briefing to the media today.

13th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) In a recent incident that took place in Tuen Mun, a district in Hong Kong, a 24-year-old man accompanied by two women aged 22 and 23 arrived at a local high school around 6pm on the evening of the 11th. They demanded to pick up a 15-year-old male student from the school premises. During the encounter, the trio engaged in disruptive behaviour, prompting the school authorities to report the incident to the authorities. Upon investigation, law enforcement officers discovered that the male suspect had been involved in several minor traffic accidents over the past six months, some of which occurred in quick succession within a single day—a highly unusual pattern. Notably, in ten of these accidents, the 15-year-old male student or the two women accompanying him were passengers in the suspect’s vehicle.

During questioning, authorities uncovered suspicions that the suspect intentionally collided with other vehicles while driving, aiming to extort compensation from the other drivers. Consequently, four individuals were arrested on charges of “conspiracy to commit fraud.”

Investigation findings revealed that the male suspect had reported 44 minor car accidents between October 2023 and April 2024, spanning a six-month period. He had managed to obtain approximately HK$65,000 in compensation from various drivers involved in these incidents. However, the actual amount involved is yet to be confirmed, as some drivers are still in the process of reaching settlements or have temporarily eluded law enforcement contact.

With the assistance of the school, law enforcement authorities identified the 24-year-old male suspect as the mastermind behind the scam. He actively recruited high school students to be passengers in his vehicle, and following accidents, he would feign injuries, inducing guilt in the other drivers, who would then offer monetary compensation to resolve the situation. Subsequently, seven more high school students, aged 14 to 15, studying in schools within the Tuen Mun area, were arrested yesterday (12th). Some of them had claimed to be injured during the accidents they were involved in while riding in the mastermind’s vehicle.

It has been revealed that the recruited high school students received rewards ranging from HK$500 to HK$1,000 for each criminal incident. Interestingly, seven of the individuals involved in the scam are students from the same school. The group would actively search for potential targets while driving, using tactics such as sudden acceleration or failure to decelerate when the other party changed lanes, deliberately causing accidents. Each successful incident allowed them to demand compensation ranging from HK$1,000 to HK$20,000 from the other driver, although not every attempt resulted in monetary gains.

The 24-year-old male suspect, a 22-year-old female suspect, and the 15-year-old male student will face charges of “conspiracy to commit fraud,” with the case scheduled for trial at the Fanling Magistrates’ Court on the 15th. The remaining arrested individuals have been granted provisional bail pending further investigation.

Investigators have emphasised their ongoing vigilance regarding criminal trends involving young offenders and have observed the influence of peer pressure and the lure of quick money as factors that may lead teenagers astray. Exploiting these vulnerabilities, the criminals engaged young individuals, many from underprivileged backgrounds, who may have lacked parental guidance due to their parents’ work commitments. The criminals enticed them by offering money, entertainment, or treating them to become tools for their criminal activities, ultimately derailing their futures. Furthermore, during the commission of these crimes, the safety of the young passengers was disregarded, as the intensity and angle of the collisions were unpredictable and beyond their control.

Law enforcement agencies are urging young people not to blindly trust strangers offering so-called “quick money” jobs to avoid falling prey to exploitation and jeopardising their future prospects. They also appeal to members of society to promptly intervene when they observe young individuals on the cusp of engaging in illegal activities, thus preventing them from falling into the clutches of the law.

Similar incidents involving suspicions of young individuals being involved in “crash for cash” scams have occurred in the past. A recent viral dashcam video captured an incident where, on the evening of the 2nd of last month, a private car was traveling along Castle Peak Road – Kwai Chung in Hong Kong. Near Tai Wo Hau Estate, a male individual wearing dark-coloured clothing suddenly ran onto the road, seemingly approaching the front of the private car. The vigilant driver slowed down upon noticing the situation, preventing the individual from succeeding. However, the same individual continued lingering on the road, then suddenly dashed onto the fast lane, extending his arms to intercept another private car. As a result, he was struck by the car’s right front end and fell to the ground.

According to law enforcement, the 15-year-old local teenager involved in the incident was first hit by a private car at the mentioned location and subsequently struck byanother vehicle. The teenager sustained minor injuries and was immediately sent to a nearby hospital for treatment. The driver of the second vehicle involved in the incident reported the incident to the police, who initiated an investigation.

Authorities suspect that the teenager deliberately attempted to stage an accident to extort compensation from the drivers involved. Such “crash for cash” scams involve individuals intentionally causing accidents or creating dangerous situations on the road to claim insurance payouts or compensation from innocent drivers. These incidents not only put innocent lives at risk but also burden insurance companies and increase premiums for all motorists.