Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 21, 2020

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Things to Remember...

  • There are several different types of car insurance fraud, including staged accidents
  • Those who commit insurance fraud attempt to get as much money from insurance companies as possible
  • Stay vigilant when you are driving to make sure you do not become the victim of insurance fraud

You’re driving down the road, and you find yourself behind a car filled with passengers. Another car is driving in the lane next to you, suddenly pulls forward and switches lanes, cutting off the vehicle in front of you.

That car’s driver slams on the brakes, bringing the car to a sudden stop and suddenly, you’re ramming into the back of it.

The third car that cut everyone off speeds away, and you and the other car’s driver are left to assess the damages.

When the police arrive, you try to explain about the third car, but it’s nowhere to be found. Because you’re the one who rear-ended the other car, it looks like you are the one at fault.

On top of that, the passengers in the vehicle you hit are now complaining of injuries, and they’re blaming you. The cop asks if you have car insurance, and you realize you’re in big trouble.

But guess what? Everything about that accident was staged. You’ve just become the latest victim of auto insurance fraud.

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The Swoop and Squat

The above tactic is known in the insurance industry as a “swoop and squat.” The two cars were working in tandem to cause a collision to make it seem like your fault.

The car that suddenly cuts, or swoops, into the lane is called the swoop car. The car that is hit is called the squat car.

The scammers purposely load up the squat car so they can file numerous medical claims against your insurance, sometimes receiving tens of thousands of dollars for each person supposedly injured in the accident.

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The Panic Stop

A variation of this scenario is called a “panic stop.” Again, the car planning to be hit is full of passengers. The car will pull into a lane in front of you, and then one of the passengers is assigned the task of watching for a moment of distraction.

As you’re driving behind the vehicle, all it takes is a moment to adjust the stereo, answer your phone, or turn your head to talk to another passenger in your car.

The lookout gives the driver a signal that your attention is diverted, and the driver slams on the brakes, causing you to rear-end the full car.

Once again, every passenger will feign injuries of varying degrees, and it’s you who will foot the bill.

Scammers and Your Auto Insurance

If you have enough auto insurance coverage, you may not have to pay anything out of pocket to repair the other vehicle or to cover any medical expenses.

Most times, these scammers get vehicle repair estimates but never actually get the car repaired anyway. They also file phony medical bills for treatment that never take place so they can pocket the money your auto insurance company pays out.

Even if you’re fully covered and your insurance company takes care of everything, you still end up paying for this fraud in the form of increased premiums.

The auto insurance industry is well aware that these fraudulent acts take place.

Every time a claim is filed, the insurance company performs an investigation, but scammers are excellent at perpetrating this type of fraud, and it’s difficult to catch them.

The auto insurance industry pays out billions of dollars each year due to insurance fraud. The only way the insurance companies can recover these financial losses is to increase premiums across the board.

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Protecting Yourself from Auto Insurance Fraud

The best way to avoid falling victim to this type of auto insurance fraud is to keep your eyes on the road:

  • Don’t get too caught up in adjusting your stereo’s settings
  • Don’t talk on the phone while you’re driving
  • Don’t turn around to talk to passengers in the back seat
  • Don’t feed a baby in the back seat

There are a hundred other things you could be doing while you’re driving such eating, putting on makeup, or tying your tie, to name just a few.

All these scammers need is for you to take your eyes off the road for a split second, and you become their next victim.

Do whatever tasks you have to do before you start driving, and if something happens while you’re driving like you spill your coffee, pull over to take care of it.

In addition to avoiding a fraudulent, staged accident, this will help you avoid a real accident.

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Safety Tips to Avoid Fraud and Stay Safe

Maintain a safe following distance, and never tailgate. This is just asking for trouble, even when fraud isn’t involved.

The car in front of you may need to stop suddenly for any reason, and if you haven’t left enough space between your vehicles, you’ll end up hitting that car and being at fault for the accident.

Keep an eye on the vehicles around you. If you’re driving behind a car full of passengers, and one of them seems to be watching you, give that car a wide berth.

If that car seems to be matching your moves, like slowing down when you slow down, change lanes or turn off the road.

It’s better to go a few minutes out of your way by taking a side street than to become a victim of auto insurance fraud.

Have Enough Auto Insurance

Finally, don’t shortchange yourself on coverage thinking it will protect you from fraud.

Scammers who perpetrate these acts of fraud are interested in getting as much money as they can but from the insurance company—not you.

If you’re underinsured, they’re not going to take you to court.

The last thing they want is to get lawyers involved or invite a more thorough investigation.

Denying yourself coverage isn’t the way to fight fraud.

If you get into a real accident, you need an appropriate amount of coverage to protect yourself financially, and to make sure any vehicle repair costs or medical expenses are covered.

Be sure to get a policy with an appropriate amount of coverage that protects you and your loved ones.

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