While many of us have likely never thought about it, there are instances when car accidents are not accidents at all. Specifically, there are cases every year where scammers attempt to commit car insurance fraud by staging car accidents. Car accidents are understandably stressful situations for drivers, which is why we do everything we can to avoid them, but it is this feeling of panic and adrenaline that works to scammers’ advantage, in that panicked drivers may not see the signs of a scam easily. Even worse, many drivers don’t even know the signs before it’s happening to them.
Staging a car accident is a serious criminal offense against unknowing victims, so to avoid being fooled, here is what all drivers should know about staged car accidents.
Types of Staged Accidents
Like most things, there are several kinds staged car accidents, some requiring more than one car and others requiring different tactics. A few recognizable common staged accidents include:
Swoop and Squat
The swoop and squat involves two to three vehicles working in tandem to cause a car accident. In this scam, the target is driving down the road when a vehicle (squatter) pulls their car in front of the target. A couple seconds afterward, another vehicle (swooper) cuts the car off in front of the target, which forces them to brake. There may even be another car beside the target to box them in. Either way, the target rear-ends the car in front of them. The swooper drives away, leaving the target “responsible.”
This one is like the swoop and squat, but the offending car has passengers. The vehicle gets in front of the target while a passenger watches and waits for the target to look away. The offending car hits the brakes (usually with no brake lights), and, with the target distracted, they can’t react quickly enough to stop.
Start and Stop
Usually occurring in gridlocked traffic, the scammer, placed in front of the target, starts moving forward, making the target believe traffic is moving finally. The target follows, but the scammer brakes suddenly before the target can brake too.
The target is driving in thick traffic and wants to change lanes. A supposedly Good (Bad) Samaritan waves the target in, but while the target is changing lanes, the Bad Samaritan accelerates suddenly and runs into the target’s car. When police get there, the Bad Samaritan just has to say they never waved the target in, making the target look careless and guilty.
This happens at intersections that have two left-turning lanes. The target may drift slightly into the other lane by accident, allowing the scammer to sideswipe the target and claim it was their fault. The scammer may also drift slightly into the target’s lane and sideswipe them. When police get there, it’s the scammer’s word against the target’s. In some instances, false witnesses may appear to tell police the blame lies with the target.
Other Signs of a Scam
Car accidents happen very fast, and it can be hard one way or another to know if one is real or staged, especially right in the aftermath. However, these additional warning signs could indicate a staged accident:
- Like a guardian angel, a Good (Bad) Samaritan appears at the scene and offers you help by referring a good lawyer, doctor, or mechanic.
- The physician for the other driver, or one someone else referred you to, asserts that you should file a personal injury claim, regardless if you were injured or not.
- A tow truck shows up almost immediately following the accident, even if nobody called them. Even worse, this tow truck might raise the price or even be working for a fraud ring.
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