5 ways to detect staged accidents

Protect your clients from becoming victims of fraud by informing them about these warning signs.

More criminals are staging vehicle accidents, complete with fake injuries, to collect on insurance policies, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

“Staged auto accidents are a dangerous criminal activity that targets innocent drivers with increasingly bold schemes aimed at defrauding insurance companies,” said Loretta Worters, vice president at the Insurance Information Institute. “Not only do honest policyholders ultimately end up paying more for auto insurance, but those committing the fraud can cause serious injuries or death.”

These types of accidents occur more frequently in urban areas where there are a greater number of vehicles, and wealthier communities because drivers are perceived to have better insurance coverage, stated the US National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in a media release. Also, criminals tend to prey on women and senior citizens driving alone, as well as new, rental or commercial vehicles with higher insurance premiums.

The NICB has released the following accident scenarios as warnings signs that drivers should be on the lookout for:

1) Swoop and Squat: Involves three vehicles; two are driven by criminals, the other is the victim. The driver of the “squat” vehicle positions his vehicle in front of the victim’s car. The driver of the “swoop” vehicle pulls ahead of the squat vehicle and intentionally cuts it off, causing the squat vehicle driver to hit his breaks. The victim cannot react in time and rear ends the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle disappears. The victim states the swoop vehicle caused the accident, but because the driver cannot be located, the victim has to pay the vehicle damage and personal injury claims of passengers in the squat vehicle.

2) Sideswipe: Typically occurs at busy intersections with dual left turn lanes. The criminal positions his vehicle in the outer lane. As soon as the victim’s vehicle drifts into the outer turn lane, the criminal sideswipes it.

3) Panic stop: The criminal typically drives an older vehicle filled with passengers. The criminal positions his car in front of the victim’s while a backseat passenger in the criminal’s vehicle watches and waits for the innocent motorist to be distracted, for example, by a cell phone call. As soon as the victim is distracted, the driver slams on the brakes, causing the innocent motorist to rear-end the criminal’s vehicle.

4) Drive down: The victim merges his vehicle into traffic after being motioned to do so by the criminal. As the innocent driver begins to merge, the criminal speeds up and causes a collision. When questioned, the criminal denies motioning the victim to merge into traffic or gives excuses.

5) Accident “runners”: Also be on the lookout for people who suddenly appear at an accident and try to direct you to specific doctors and attorneys. These so-called “runners” are usually part of the criminal scheme. Be wary of physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim after an accident, especially if you are not hurt, as well as tow trucks that arrive on the scene without anyone calling them.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends keeping a pad and pencil in your glove compartment to note the names and addresses of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident, license plate numbers, make and model of each car, drivers license numbers, insurance, names and addresses of witnesses, and names and badge numbers of police officers or other emergency personnel.

If your clients have been in an accident and suspect fraud, advise them to call the police or highway patrol and obtain a police report with the officer’s name, even if damage is minimal.

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