Anybody who has ever been in one knows that a car accident can be a nightmare. What’s worse is that some car accidents are deliberately staged by vicious criminals out to rip off insurance companies.
These crooks actually orchestrate accidents involving innocent drivers. Not only does this heinous practice put people and property in danger but it can also raise your insurance premiums. Many innocent motorists end up with accidents on their record and pay more in insurance because of these fraudsters.
The problem has been made worse because there are dozens of organized gangs of professional criminals that make a dishonest living by staging such accidents. If you drive, you need to be aware of these predators and their tactics. Insurance fraudsters rely on your ignorance to get away with their depredations.
Crash for Cash
The best way to protect yourself from insurance fraudsters is to understand how they work. Many victims don’t even realize that they’ve been scammed. Here are some of these crooks’ favorite tactics:
- The Drive Down. A friendly motorist waves you on at an intersection then deliberately crashes his or her vehicle right into you. When confronted, the crook denies waving you on.
- Parking Lot Drive Down. A driver in a parked car waves you on then pulls out and hits you. Another variation involves a driver that stops while you’re starting to pull out and acts like he or she wants your parking space. The criminal then drives up behind your car and lets his vehicle get hit.
- The Sideswipe. If you’re trying to make a left turn or driving in the left-turn lane, the crook simply pulls in front of you or rams into the side of your car. Some criminals will drive right in front of you while you’re pulling onto or off of the highway.
- Shady Helpers. A friendly stranger appears out of nowhere right after an accident. The stranger may try to talk you into using a specific lawyer, chiropractor, or doctor and conveniently have that professional’s card in his hand. Don’t buy it; the friendly helper is in on the scam. In another variation, the friendly stranger tries to talk you into using a specific auto body shop.
- Swoop and Squat. It sounds silly, but there’s nothing funny about this con. A vehicle suddenly swoops right in front of you and puts on the brakes, causing an accident. The driver or passengers of the car then develop whiplash and call a lawyer. In some variations of this scam, teams of crooks in two or three vehicles force you into the wreck.
These are just a few of the tactics used by the insurance fraudsters. Be alert because these crooks are constantly thinking up new scams.
What to Do After an Accident
It isn’t always possible to spot insurance fraudsters at work, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself after an accident. Some of the steps that you can take to protect yourself include:
- Call the law. Call the police as soon as you get into an accident; don’t rely on others to do so. Simply having the cops around can sometimes scare fraudsters off.
- Carefully observe how people act. If somebody isn’t upset or agitated, get suspicious. Get really suspicious if somebody says you should call a certain lawyer, doctor, chiropractor, or auto body shop. Watch to see if somebody starts acting injured if the police or paramedics arrive.
- If you or somebody else is injured, call 911 for an ambulance and paramedics. A person who is really hurt will probably let paramedics treat him or her. If somebody refuses treatment, get suspicious.
- Be leery of strangers. If somebody appears and claims he or she saw the accident, ask who they are and why they are there.
- Use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident, the vehicles, and everybody around.
- Look for signs of fraud such as a used vehicle or a car with several people in it.
- If you think there’s fraud, report it to the police, the insurance company, and your state’s government. You can also report insurance to the National Insurance Crime Bureau; its phone number is 1-800-835-6422.
- Write down the name and contact information for everybody present, including drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
- Write down the license plate number for every vehicle involved, or take pictures of the plates with your phone.
- If you need to hire a doctor or a lawyer, choose your own. Never take recommendations of people at the scene.
- Follow up on the accident and see if any claims have been filed. If you’re suspicious of a claim, tell your insurance company.
The best way to protect yourself from insurance fraud is to be suspicious. If something or somebody doesn’t seem right after an accident, ask questions. Just being a little vigilant and asking a few questions can keep you from being a victim and having your premium go up.