If it wasn’t hard enough to learn to drive, with pressures such as passing first time, the cost of lessons, tests and the seemingly ever-increasing price of gas, knowing there are unscrupulous fraudsters on our roads might just send you round the bend.
According to the experts at Trusted Car Buyers, the practice of ‘crashing for cash’ is on the rise, specifically amongst newer and less experienced drivers, but you can prepare yourself against it.
In the last decade, motorists have been intentionally inducing an accident for insurance pay-outs, with figures for non-health insurance fraud estimated at more than $40bn a year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (an increase of $400 to $700 a year in premiums per family).
At a time when families are paying more for gas, paying out in our insurance premiums for accidents that aren’t our fault or even ever occurred really hurts.
Crashing for cash is nothing new, but to combat its profligacy, it’s time we take a harder look at what types of scam are out there, and – most importantly – how to beat the crash for cash scammers.
What crash for cash scams are out there?
Car insurance companies have devised a categorisation of ‘crash for cash’ scams. Whilst the names of them may vary online, they can be largely grouped into three common tactics:
- Staged accidents – this is where two drivers (or more) will deliberately stage an accident with each other, attempting to mimic a real crash, before claiming on their insurance policies individually
- Contrived (a.k.a. ‘ghost’) accidents – these are fraudulent insurance claims based on accidents that never even occurred
- Induced accidents – these are of most concern: where a motorist intentionally drives recklessly to cause a crash
What induced accidents should I look out for?
If you’re a younger driver or more recently road-legal driver, beware. Scammers tend to target those that appear most inexperienced because they are expecting you’re less likely to kick-up a fuss or contest a claim.
The aim of their game is to make these ‘accidents’ appear as though you are the driver ‘at fault’.
One of the most common accidents is where a fraudster might pull in front of a target vehicle and slam on the brakes quickly, causing you to career into the back of them.
To combat this, always make sure you keep a relative distance between yourself and the vehicle in front, depending on your speed. At 20mph, you should allow up to 12 metres (or three car lengths) ideally.
Another induced crash is where a vehicle pulls out from a junction or roundabout, knowing it is unsafe to do so, giving the oncoming vehicle next to no chance to react in time. You should always adjust your speed accordingly to the situation to combat the chances of this kind of accident occurring, whether intentionally or not.
In recent years, methods of crashing have become even more sophisticated though. Decoy vehicles and even fake witnesses have been known to be used. What they don’t realise is by doing this, they endanger even more innocent motorists and bystanders.
What else can I do to beat the scammers?
Remember your driving instructor’s words of wisdom. Make sure you are fully alert, keep your distance between vehicles in front (adjusting for weather conditions) and always anticipate potential hazards.
Confidence is key. Fraudsters feed on inexperience and it can come across in your driving. So stay calm and remember what you were shown in driving school.
There are such things as dash cams – dashboard-mounted cameras (popular in Russia) – which can help you out when your wits are not enough. In the event of a traffic accident, your camera should have captured it all, providing irrefutable evidence in a court of law.
And in the unfortunate scenario that you fall victim to a blasted scammer, it is important to stay as calm as you can. Never admit liability or responsibility for the bump.
First thing you should do is take down as much of their details about the incident and suspected fraudsters as possible. Also, be sure to snap some photos with your phone if you can.
If it is a con, you probably wouldn’t put it past the perpetrator to make up some invisible witnesses when they go to insurers, so photo evidence is important.
So to sum up: remember your stopping distances, anticipate hazards and consider a dash-fitted camera if you’re particularly concerned. And if you are caught up in a bump, stay cool and take as much info and visual evidence as possible to help in your case should the incident escalate with your insurers.
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