Have you ever noticed while driving that the guy either next to you or behind you is staying so close to your car that it looks like he’s actually trying to hit you on purpose? Surely, you think, you’re just imagining things, but you might actually be right. Insurance fraud, including that which can result from car accidents, is the second-largest financial crime in the U.S. (following tax evasion).
Here is a list of some of the more common auto accident scams so that you can be on alert when it looks like someone might be trying to engage you in one.
What They Do: Either slam on their brakes at the last possible second, or stop a lot shorter than you expected them to. Rear-end collisions are almost always the fault of the guy doing the colliding (in this case, you). While they can say they saw a kid dart out into the road and stopped short to avoid hitting it, what was your excuse as to why you didn’t give them enough distance to stop?
What You Can Do: Leave enough of a distance between you and the car in front of you so that if they do need (or choose) to stop short, you have plenty of time to react and avoid hitting them. Also important here, and everywhere else, is to avoid fiddling with your phone. If you’re too engrossed in texting or being texted, how are you going to know if that person you just rear-ended set you up?
The Invented Passenger
What They Do: Claim there was someone else in the car who sustained injuries in the collision. You know you didn’t see anyone else in their car, but who do you think the insurance company is going to believe?
What You Can Do: Try to get the names of everyone in the other car. If you have any suspicions whatsoever that the situation may not be legitimate, insist on taking photos of everyone, taking wide shots that cover the area to avoid any claims that Mystery Passenger might have been standing out of the frame. You can also verify that the number of people listed on the police report appropriately corresponds to those at the scene.
The Fake Gesture
What They Do: Wave you on to merge with traffic. As soon as you wave your thanks and pull out, they slam into you, claiming that they never gave you permission to enter and that you cut them off.
What You Can Do: While this does seem supremely douchey if the offer is, in fact, genuine, you don’t have to accept if you feel that the gesture could in any way be suspicious. If you’re not positive that the person is being sincere, you can politely wave back with a gesture that conveys the message that you will wait to go.
What They Do: Either report pre-existing damage as new damage that you had caused to their car in the collision, or do even more damage to their car when they go home after the accident in order to trump up repair costs on your insurance’s dime.
What You Can Do: Take photos of both cars at the scene from every angle. If you notice pre-existing damage, you’ll definitely want to take a snapshot of that, too. If it’s anything more than superficial scratches, it is strongly recommended that you file a police report in order to properly document the true extent of the damage, or lack thereof.
What They Do: Go to the hospital for whiplash or other pain that they don’t, in fact, have in order to make your insurance company give them a higher pay-out.
What You Can Do: Make note of how the other people behave between the point of impact and when the police show up. If they don’t appear to be in pain until the police arrive, then you may have a scam on your hands. This is another instance where a police report should be filed. If the insurance company sees a small scratch or dent on the car, they’ll probably be less inclined to believe that anyone in the car was seriously injured in the accident.