White van manLewis Whyld/PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Criminal gangs involved in staging car crashes are targeting commercial vehicle drivers, according to new research by anti-fraud company APU.

So-called 'crash for cash' scams have become more prevalent in recent years, and involve claiming for whiplash and other personal injuries through another party's insurer, following a carefully choreographed collision in which the innocent party is made to look at fault.

While private vehicle owners have largely born the brunt this new scourge, light commercial vehicles are increasingly being targeted and are now involved in almost a third of deliberate crashes.

APU believes that 'white van man' is being singled out because their vehicles are likely to be fully insured, and with the drivers often working to a tight deadline they are less likely to dispute accident liability at the roadside.

Neil Thomas, APU spokesman and former Detective Inspector of West Midlands Police, said: "This is yet another example of how criminal fraud gangs are becoming more sophisticated – they are thinking quite hard about exactly who they target on the roads and it's based on solid logic.

"Britain's LCV drivers are a hard-working lot and are very often pushed for time, so they are less likely to stand by the side of the road arguing the case about a collision. The criminals are banking on the fact that they will simply exchange insurance details and move on. It's cynical but it works."

Crash for cash scams are showing no signs of abating, with around one in seven personal injury claims – equating to 69,500 every year – now being linked to fraudulent activity.

Newly released figures show that there are five light commercial vehicles in the top 20 targeted by crash gangs, with the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Vauxhall Vivaro, Citroen Berlingo, Volkswagen Transporter and Volkswagen Tipper now accounting for 31 per cent of all 'induced accident' claims.