Being in a car crash is bad enough, but being blamed for something that isn’t your fault so that someone else can profit from your misfortune is even worse. Car crash scams are becoming more and more common, and whilst professional insurance detectives can spot a scam, often a normal driver can’t and ends up getting ripped off. But we’re here to clue you in, so that if someone tries to scam you, you’ll be able to see it coming!
Car Crash Scams: How They Work
You might be wondering what the point of car crash scams is, and how anyone could possibly profit from them, but the idea is relatively simple. The scammer causes a car accident (we’ll talk about how in a moment) for which you get blamed, even though it’s not your fault. Your insurance company will pay for the scammer’s damage, but he will claim for damages that are much higher than they actually are. Sometimes scammers work alongside auto repair shops to get false damage statements and incorrect repair estimates.
The end result here is that the scammer ends up with money, although that does come from your insurance company, so you might not mind too much. What you will mind is that you end up with increased insurance premiums, since your clean driving record is no longer clean because you’ve now had to make an insurance claim. Sound unfair? That’s because it is!
How to Spot a Car Crash Scam
There are several common kinds of car accidents that are used by scammers, and knowing these should help you to avoid them. Here’s the low down on the top scams:
The Crash for Cash
This scam is also sometimes called the “swoop and squat” or a “forced rear ending.” You’re driving down the road when you come upon a vehicle in front of you that’s driving slowly. Like a good driver, you also slow down. However, the car behind you speeds up, overtaking both you and the slower car, then brakes quickly forcing the slow car into an emergency stop, and making you hit the back of the slower car.
This is by far the most common staged accident, but it’s actually pretty easy to avoid as long as you ALWAYS make sure to leave enough room between you and the car in front!
The False Merge
Another common car crash scam, and this time one that’s tough to avoid. The idea is very simple. You want to merge onto the highway (or another busy street) and the scammer very kindly slows down and waves for you to go in front of him. As soon as you begin to merge he takes his foot off the brake and moves forward again so that you hit him. These road accidents are always blamed on the person merging, which in this case is you.
What to do? Drive carefully, especially whilst merging, but it’s very easy to fall for this scam and if it happens there’s not a lot you can do, unfortunately.
The Bad Samaritan
This scam may be used after a normal car crash has already happened, or can be used in conjunction with one of the above scams. After the crash, someone approaches you and wants to help. So far, so good. But the person in question will advise you to go to a certain lawyer or medical facility, or may even say that they’re from an insurance company. Unfortunately, these lawyers and doctors will be fake, and the Samaritan is certainly not from any insurance company. This is a scam to get your insurance information so that the scammer can file false insurance claims using your data.
How to avoid this? Don’t give out your insurance info to anyone without solid proof of who they are. If in doubt, wait for the police to come, since scammers usually try to avoid police confrontations.
The Non-Insurance Scam
Again, this scam is sometimes used in conjunction with one of the above and it’s very simple indeed. After the accident, the driver will come to you and offer to forget about dealing with insurance companies. All you’ll need to do is hand over some cash so that he can get his car fixed. In this case the car was probably already damaged (or may be stolen), and you just lose cash. This can be tempting though, since from your point of view it will mean that your insurance premiums won’t go up.
This car crash scam is simple to avoid, all you need to do is refuse to deal personally with other drivers after an accident. If you need to know more, check out What to Do After a Car Accident.
Finally, there are a whole bunch of scams that involve manoeuvring you into a position you can’t get out of. Maybe a car in front of you suddenly stops so you have to hit it. Maybe you legally go through a green light or stop sign and then a car slams into you from the side. Maybe a car pulls out in front of you at the same time as another vehicle pulls up next to you so you can’t swerve to avoid the accident. These scams are simple to do, and also often include “false witnesses” who just happened to be at the scene and blame you for the accident.
Avoiding these kinds of car crash scams is difficult, and the only advice we have for you here is to stay alert as you’re driving. The more safely you’re driving, the less likely you are to be lured into an accident.
What to Do If You Suspect a Scam
If you’ve been in a car crash and suspect that it might be a scam then the best thing that you can do is to get as much evidence as possible. Call the police, obviously, but also take as many pictures as you can with your phone, and if there are other people around try and get their contact numbers or even a recording on your phone of what they saw. Also try and get info about the scammer, though he’ll be reluctant to provide it or will provide false information, but you can write down how he looks so you can identify him if necessary, as well as info about his car.
You should report both to the police and to your insurance company that you suspect the car crash was a scam, and it will help to have as much evidence as you can get hold of.
Protect Yourself from Car Crash Scams
Finally, you should do as much as possible to protect yourself. Always keep to the rules of the road, obeying laws about following distances between cars, for example. Always report accidents to the police and your insurance company, and never settle for cash with the other driver. And an inexpensive dash cam installed in your car can make a huge difference when it comes to proving that you weren’t at fault.
Not every car crash is a scam, of course, but some are. And the more you know, the better you’ll be able to ensure that you don’t fall for a staged accident. Safe driving!
Main Subject: Car Crash
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