Two men have just been jailed in the UK for a car insurance scam; the Spanish press is full of similar stories. Wonder what it’s like in Greece?

The principle of insurance is a sound one in that many people pay in against the risk that something might happen, forming a pool of money that can be drawn upon in the event that the unthinkable occurs. If payment has been made for years without ever having to dip into the pool, you can see why the temptation not to pay arises.

Insurance, like tax, is one of those costs that we often resent having to pay and in these tough times I guess that more and more people are not renewing and taking a risk which is understandable if short sighted

Two sides

Stories abound about insurance companies refusing to pay because of some triviality in the small print and companies are sick to death of punters inflating their claims, so scepticism exists on both sides. A friend had his under-build burgled and sent off his true and accurate claim which was rejected because he had admitted that the area was not locked. Naïve, stupid or just very honest?

Some claimants have declared that the Cartier watch just happened to be in the glove box when their car was nicked and there are so many drivers with whiplash injuries that making neck braces has to be the next growth industry

The two gentlemen jailed in the UK were having a real run of bad luck as other drivers kept driving into the back of them sparking claims for damage to their cars plus a variety of difficult to diagnose injuries. Their potentially dangerous game was to suddenly stop so that a following vehicle used them like a railway buffer. Other scams involve getting your mate to steal or torch your car. The inevitable outcome for all of us is that companies will be less willing to pay out and premiums increase

Reducing liability

So what precautions can we take. How about reviewing your policy? Some clauses can be designed in such a way that virtually any claim is rejected. Many companies sell on price alone; is the cheapest the best? How do they survive if the premiums are so low? Paying a little more up front may save you much money and grief later on. A good reputation as with any business is not an accident

When driving allow that little extra space between you and the car in front so that you have more time to react if the tank in front of you stops to avoid a spider crossing the road. In stationary traffic the distance between you and the car in front should allow you to see its rear tyres so that a bang in the rear doesn’t shunt you into the vehicle ahead

Maintaining space around you helps to avoid accidents; the 2-3 second gap behind the car in front should always give you time to react. Too close and all you can see is the rear of the preceding vehicle; stay back and get the bigger picture. Why overtake if you are 20th in a line of slow moving traffic? Becoming 19th or 18th will not get you there any quicker. If a driver is close to your backside, resist the temptation to hit the brakes and move over so that he can hassle someone else

To minimise break-ins, where possible, park where your car can be seen. Always lock up no matter where it is or for how short a period. Leaving items on display is asking for trouble. In the circumstances in which you normally drive or park your car ask yourself what could you honestly declare on an insurance claim and expect to be reimbursed. A running engine and Molotov cocktail on the passenger seat could get your fingers burnt!