Wait? What just happened? You were cruising down the road, beautiful day, no traffic on the highway. Suddenly a car appeared out of nowhere, swerved in front of you and jammed on his brakes for no apparent reason.  You attempted to swerve into the left lane, but a van suddenly appeared to your left and you had no choice but to hit the bumper of the car in front of you.

Suddenly chaos, the car you bumped is filled with passengers who are screaming of neck and back injuries. A few other autos stop and witnesses claim that you were driving erratically and had no control of your vehicle. When you point out the van that boxed you in, you realize that it is long gone.

You’ve been scammed. That particular Insurance Fraud Scenario is called: Swoop and Squat and it is designed to bilk your insurance agency of thousands of dollars.

Many dishonest drivers will maneuver innocent motorists into auto crashes. The cars may only suffer a small dent, but the crooks still make large and illegal claims for fake injuries and car damage against your auto insurance company, or their own. Often these accidents are staged by organized crime rings that bilk dozens of unsuspecting drivers.

Staged accidents cost the insurance industry about $20 billion a year. Those losses get passed on to all of us in the form of higher insurance rates—an average of $100-$300 extra per car per year. But knowing that this scam exists and how it is pulled off, might save you from becoming a target:

Types of Staged Auto Accidents;

1.       The Swoop and Squat: - A con artist swerves in front of a driver’s vehicle and then slams on their brakes. A second scammer’s vehicle will pull alongside the targeted car, which will keep the driver from maneuvering into the other lane to avoid a collision.

2.       The Polite Wave To Proceed: - Used when there’s a lot of traffic with a driving situation that includes a merge and/or “right of way”.  The scam artist waves to the victim, indicating that they’re yielding the right of way to them. As the victim begins to go, the scam artist rapidly accelerates to cause an accident. When police arrive, the perpetrator rejects the victim’s assertion that they gave up the right of way to them.

3.       T-Bone. - Driver stops at an intersection, begins to proceed through, and a waiting scammer knowingly slams into the vehicle. Then scammer tells the police that driver was distracted and did not stop for the stop sign.

How can you protect yourself from becoming a target?

If you’re in an accident, call 9-1-1 immediately. Having police on the scene will help you document all crucial information.  If you think the crash is suspicious, do not talk to the other driver.

 Report accident claims to your insurance company. If the other driver suggests that you settle without involving your insurance company, do not listen.

Be careful with your personal information, mindful of identity theft.  Wait for the police to arrive to show your documentation.

Everyone carries cell phones, so use it to photograph the car and passengers and write down names, addresses, and phone numbers.

Be wary of tow truck operators, doctors, lawyers and auto body shops that are recommended by the  other driver or passengers. Use professionals you know and trust.

Don’t tail gate…drive safely. Always keep your distance from all vehicles on the road. Be alert at all times.

Lastly, invent in a dash cam or other automobile recording devise. Actually capturing the moment on camera and what occurred can save you thousands of dollars and hours of stress.