When the holidays come around, the scammers come out of the woodwork. They like to take advantage of the goodwill, trust and mental distraction that abounds at this time of year. A favorite target is your automobile, or more to the point, the cash they can cheat your automobile insurance company out of with a staged accident or fake injury claim. These shady characters don’t just ruin your holiday. They mess up your driving record, raise everybody’s car insurance premiums and sometimes, they kill or seriously injure innocent people. These fake accidents cost the insurance companies $20 billion a year…costs that are passed on to drivers at rates averaging $100 to $300 more per car in annual premiums. Knowing how they operate and what to do if you suspect a scam will help keep you from becoming their latest victim and help you save on auto insurance.
Parking lots are favorite of the scamsters, especially during the holiday season when the malls are crowded and folks are in a hurry. Watch out for the “helpful” driver who waves you out of your cramped parking spot only to plow into your car. You’re backing out so they had the supposed right-of-way. You’re at fault and the bogus claim will go against you. Politely refuse their assistance and let them target some other chump. If that feels like passing the buck and you’re suspicious of someone’s motives, get his license number and a description of his vehicle and give it to the mall management, security guard or parking lot attendant so they’ll be on the alert.
On the road, maintain plenty of road between you and the car ahead. This isn’t just a good driving habit, it could keep you from becoming the victim of a Swoop and Squat Scam. It works this way: you’re driving along, a car cuts off the driver in front of you and slams on his brakes. You can’t stop in time, so you rear-end the guy (whose car, by the way, is typically full of passengers). Guess what? Amazingly, every one in that car has whiplash or some other hard-to-disprove soft tissue malady. These bad guys work in cahoots with dishonest chiropractors, lawyers, physical therapists and auto repair shops. Bottom line: you’re screwed and you can forget about that good driver discount next time you go looking for auto insurance quotes. Do you need another reason to never, ever tailgate?
These crooks tend to be opportunists – kind of like great white sharks cruising the roadways hunting for easy targets. They’ll purposely sideswipe you if you accidentally drift into their lane. After encouraging you to merge into heavy traffic, they’ll ram into you when you do and then deny it to the police. They’ll wait till you’re in an intersection and then plow into you. Planted witnesses will say you ran a red light or stop sign.
Protect yourself and your good driving record. Call the cops immediately and never settle for cash on the spot. Take lots of photos of the accident scene, driver, passengers and bystanders with your cell phone or camera. Get names, addresses and phone numbers, too. Do not provide the other driver with more personal info than the law requires; you don’t want to be a victim of identity theft, too!