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Staged Accidents And Scams: How To Spot Insurance Fraud

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If you're in an accident and there's something a little odd about either the incident itself or what happens in the days and weeks following, you might be right to think that you—and your insurer—are being played.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), staged accidents altogether cost both policyholders and insurers billions of dollars annually. They've been increasingly common, too, during the recession. And with every level of thief from organized crime syndicates to rogue street thugs and scam artists involved, insurance fraud can take many forms.

"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 of the I.I.I., in a release on the matter.

Urban areas are more likely the backdrop for staged or fraudulent auto accidents, but contrary to what you might think, they occur more frequently in wealthier areas than poorer ones—because the high-priced neighborhoods are where people are more likely to have full insurance coverage.

The III points to "no-fault" auto-insurance states as those in which staged accidents run most rampant. Among the twelve U.S. states with no-fault laws, Florida (and the Miami area in particular) leads in questionable claims potentially involving staged accidents, followed by New York, Michigan, and New Jersey.

According to the III, there are a few key warning signs that you're part of a staged accident:

  • People who appear at the accident and direct you to (or insist that you use) particular attorneys or doctors
  • Physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim even if you weren't hurt
  • Tow trucks that arrive without any call
  • After the accident, "padded" (inflated) claims and misrepresented facts

 

Staged accidents in general rose by 26 percent in 2010, versus 2009, while inflated auto-body or auto-repair claims rose 31 percent and auto-glass fraud rose a whopping 450 percent in a year.

Even if you're not sure what you've seen is insurance fraud, report your suspicion. That way it would be harder to inflate the claim by making damage more extensive—and if they are pulling a scam and do get away with it this time, they'll have more trouble next time.

If you're in an accident, take notes, take pictures, and record license-plate numbers and makes/models of vehicles, as well as names and badge numbers of officers and emergency personnel. And get names and addresses for everyone involved, and for witnesses.

Click over to the next page for four of the most common scenarios for staged accidents, from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB):


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Comments (3)
  1. Most of these are EASILY avoided with good EADD skills (extremely active defensive driving)
    First BIG BUFFERS. this takes care of Swoop and Squat and Panic Stop.
    Second ALWAYS pay attention and maintain your buffers. it should be PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for a car to force you to rear end it. If you hit the car in front of you regardless of their actions YOU WERE TOO CLOSE.
    if they "cut" in front of you with the intention of then hitting the brakes again this is where EADD comes in. someone cuts in front of me I am hitting the brakes before they even finish merging.
    ALWAYS maintain at least 2 "outs" no one "rides" alongside me (I actively prevent it by changing lanes or hitting the brakes (as hard as needed) so it would be hard to swipe me
     
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  2. as for Drive Down again EADD. buffers and active aggressive defense.
    If someone is able to HIT you and it not be OBVIOUS they did it on purpose YOU SCREWED UP by allowing them to be too close when you made your maneuver. Don't let them be too close. Ever.
    I also have a DASH cam running in my car at all times. you can get one for around $20-$30 online. they run when the engine is on and "eat" their own tail as they record. SO shove a 4gb card into one and it will hold the last 3 to 10 HOURS of driving. when it fills up it erases the oldest video and "loops" over itself.
    when something happens wait till the event is PASSED and then REMOVE the memory card to preserve the video for evidence purposes. tell NO ONE you have it until you have secured BACKUP STORAGE of the video content.
    also TALK to yourself when anything "hinky" happens or might happen. Hmm that car is in an odd position as he is waiving me out into traffic etc.. OUTLOUD. that "real time" evidence has a lot more weight than he says she says because its a lot harder to "fake/plan" that kind of stuff.
    but just practicing safe buffers and EADD skills will prevent 99% of all of this.
     
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  3. They are so slick. Many rental car employees will drive "unrented" vehicles all week with a non dated contract,and if anything happens to the "unrented" car,they simply fill in dates and go sideswipe a truck,perhaps fake an injury, and the motor carrier foots the bill. Beware of minority drivers in Florida.
     
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