Bradford is now the worst area in the country for ‘crash for cash’ crimes.

It has replaced Blackburn as top of the hotspot league for such offences despite the number of incidents being reduced in the district.

In typical crash for cash scams, fraudsters perform unexpected emergency stops, causing innocent drivers to crash into them.

Claims are then made to the innocent driver’s insurers, often describing the fictitious injuries of ‘ghost’ passengers, who are members of the criminal gang.

It is believed proceeds of such frauds are used to fund serious crimes, such as drug trafficking and gun running.

Last December a Porsche-driving garage boss, Mohammed Rashid, of Keighley, was jailed for five years for orchestrating false, staged and exaggerated road accidents to fleece insurers.

Rashid, 37, the owner of Autotransform in Bradford Street, Keighley, was described as “the dishonest spider at the centre of this very unpleasant web” by Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC. Rashid was brought to justice after a groundbreaking inquiry by West Yorkshire Police and insurance fraud investigators.

Yesterday, John Beadle, chairman of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, revealed that Bradford had more crash for cash incidents than anywhere else in the country and had now overtaken Blackburn.

He said: “It has gone up one place in the table because there has been a significant drop in incidents in Blackburn. The good news is there has been a smaller drop in Bradford, so we feel last year’s operation has had an impact.”

Nationally, crash for cash incidents have reduced by 11 per cent over the last two years. Mr Beadle said: “The criminal gangs targeting honest motorists are ruthless. Innocent lives are being put at risk and fraudulent insurance claims add approximately £40 to every premium paid by honest policyholders each year.”

Mr Beadle said there was a degree of ethnicity about the gangs committing these crimes, which could explain why Bradford figured so high in the league table.

He praised the co-operation of Airedale and North Bradford CID during the Keighley inquiry and said the IFB was now working on 25 operations with 13 forces.

He said drivers should be aware of other motorists performing unusual manoeuvres around them and, if they were involved in an accident they should take a note of the damage, a description of the driver and number of occupants, and take photographic evidence.

Detective Inspector John Mountain of Airedale and North Bradford CID, said: “Police in Bradford and the IFB have been working in partnership to tackle the issue of crash for cash and have achieved major convictions which are having an effect in the area.

“Last year we broke up a criminal gang in Keighley which was committing fraud on an industrial scale. The leader of the gang received a five-year jail term with his partners receiving suspended sentences for committing staged car crashes.

“Anyone with information on staged accidents can call the confidential Insurance Fraud Bureau Cheatline on 0800 328 2550.”